Letter: Common sense might help Bristol’s water woes

Posted 9/15/21

Last week’s flooding from remnants of hurricane Ida is yet another example of Bristol’s costly disregard of water issues. The overtopping of the new Silver Creek Bridge, the second time …

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Letter: Common sense might help Bristol’s water woes


Last week’s flooding from remnants of hurricane Ida is yet another example of Bristol’s costly disregard of water issues. The overtopping of the new Silver Creek Bridge, the second time since it was built, was no surprise as the town acquiesced to a design known to be as inadequate and prone to flooding as was the old bridge.

The posting of “Flood Zone” signs on each side of the bridge did not solve the problem. A dam formed by Hope Street between the Beach House parking lot and Washington Street, along with a too small bridge opening, can back up water on Silver Creek and cause overflow of the low bridge. All features that were ignored in the new bridge design and ones that will worsen with a rising sea level and wetter climate.

The town will continue to pay for this in police details and damage to cars and buildings, not to mention inconvenience to the citizens. This is but one man-made water problem that is plaguing the town, raising costs and taxes.

The moderate relief of the peninsula on which Bristol sits, had good natural drainage until building was allowed across the creeks and wetlands. This then requires expensive remediation. Tanyard Brook and one that had flowed from the pond in Children’s Grove have almost been obliterated by housing, and Silver Creek is greatly restricted.

The small creek extending northwest from Children’s Grove has essentially disappeared. Permission for building on one last lot, with standing water, was given despite a neighborhood protest, before the State DEM stopped it.

Building across creeks diverts surface water onto the neighboring yards and raises groundwater to flood nearby basements. It also sends excess water into storm drains to overload them and, at times, shoot geysers three feet high through the drains. The displaced water has to go somewhere.

The costly three-part remediation of Tanyard Brook would have been unnecessary with proper consideration of building permits. The upper Silver Creek has been narrowed and its passage through St. Mary’s Cemetery and the high school greatly restricted. This has caused both past and proposed high-cost projects for correction. Costs that should have been avoided with proper planning.

The piecemeal encroachment on wetlands also contributes to flooding. These act as nature’s flood-control dams; soaking up rainwater and then slowly releasing it. Commonly this construction is done one lot at a time from existing developments, considering it does not matter, as is happening to the large wetland east of Hope Street, north of Tupelo Street. The wetlands along Silver Creek that hold back storm waters have been limited, as have others in the northern parts of town.

Rising shore waters are another area of concern. Bristol’s development as a colonial port necessitated building out along the shore, but subsequent construction encroaching on the shore and in low areas has placed buildings in harms way and limited recreation, to the detriment of the town. Too much of the coast is armored by rock or extended sea walls and our pocket beaches are lost or cut off. Storms periodically correct much of this, but at great expense.

These water issues cost the town dearly, raise taxes, diminish its attractiveness and, in some cases, its safety. Taxes from unwise development never pay for the problems caused. To prevent this, all projects and construction should be required to submit documents on the ramifications of such water issues and a sign-off by the Conservation Commission, and the town should begin a program to acquire wetlands to head of further degredation. This would help avoid these costly results, as would a dose of common sense.

Patrick Barosh, Ph.D., geologist

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