NARRAGANSETT – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation to the town of Narragansett Monday for violating the Clean Water Act.
According to the notice, as part of the EPA’s regional effort to investigate the bacterial sources of beach closures, EPA personnel collected surface water quality samples from a number of locations at Scarborough State Beach.
The EPA reportedly found that the town is discharging stormwater containing fecal coliform, E. coli and enterococcus bacteria, into the ocean.
According to the EPA, the discharges were also found to contain “selected pharmaceutical compounds,” the presence of which “provides evidence that the sources of the bacterial water quality exceedences are of human origin and due to the presence of sanitary sewage.”
The EPA has instructed Narragansett to maintain compliance with the Clean Water Act and Rhode Island’s own clean water standards.
The town has 30 days to submit a statement to the EPA describing the suspected sources of the human sewage, the location of any additional known instances of violations of water quality standards in the town, any corrective actions that have been implemented, and a description of the actions that will be taken to correct the violations along with a schedule for their implementation.
Narragansett Town Manager Pamela Nolan said she has met with Town Engineer Jeffry Ceasrine and Narragansett Public Works Director David Ousterhout to develop a plan for addressing and remedying the situation.
Nolan said Ceasrine would work with the EPA and whatever consultants the town may have to bring in to solve the problem.
“We are taking this very seriously,” Nolan said Wednesday. “We will investigate the town’s compliance with the Clean Water Act and we will investigate all the issues that we’ve had up to this point.”
Nolan said the town has previously worked with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which owns both Scarborough Beach and the outflow pipe, as well as the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, to study and identify the sources of the bacteria at the beach.
On Tuesday, Gail Mastrati, DEM spokesperson, said the department hadn’t received a notice of violation from the EPA.
Nolan also pointed out that the RIDOT owns the storm drains on Ocean Road, which drain to the ocean.
On Wednesday night, Rose Amoros, chief public officers officer at RIDOT, said DOT hasn’t received a notice of violation from the EPA.
Nolan said that the U.S. Army owns Fort Greene at Point Judith, a large block of land within the watershed, which contributes to the outfalls.
“So what we are going to do is determine the extent, if any, of our responsibility,” Nolan said. “We don’t own Scarborough, the outflow pipe or the sewer drains. We’re going to investigate why the notice of violation was addressed with the town.”
She said Ceasrine would continue to work with the EPA and she would work with the town council and the town solicitor to determine “what we should do from here.”