Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Recycle Your E-Waste For Earth Day!

Did you know that most electronics contain harmful or even toxic substances and are considered hazardous material? Unfortunately, nearly 2 million tons of electronic waste still ends up in our landfills every year! Not only does this fill up our landfill, which is nearing capacity, but as the electronics sit there and become weathered over time they begin to seep out their hazardous material, which leaches into ground and pollutes our soil and waterways.
Do you have old electronics you have been meaning to get rid of? BRIDGE is holding an e-waste recycling drive this Saturday at the Texas Roadhouse parking lot in Warwick. Learn more about the BRIDGE program on their blog.

Friday, December 16, 2011

First Debris From Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami Reaches Olympic Peninsula

By Arwyn Rice, Peninsula Daily News

The first piece of debris that could be identified as washing up on the West Coast from the March 11 tsunami in Japan — a large black float — was found on a Neah Bay beach two weeks ago, Seattle oceanographers Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Jim Ingraham said Tuesday night.
Since then, the two researchers, known as DriftBusters Inc. — who have used flotsam to track wind and water currents in the Pacific since 1970 — have learned that the black, 55-gallon drum-sized floats also have been found on Vancouver Island.
Oceanographer Jim Ingraham answers questions about the islands of debris 
from the March 11 Japan tsunami that are slowly floating toward the 
Pacific Northwest. Behind him is a float, found east of Neah Bay, that is
believed to be the first identified piece of wreckage to arrive via 
ocean currents. Photo by Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News.
Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham spoke to more than 100 people at Peninsula College and brought the float with them, along with examples of other items that may be showing up on beaches in the next year.
Tons of debris washed out to sea when a tsunami struck northern Japan after a massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake March 11.
About a quarter of the 100 million tons of debris from Japan is expected to make landfall on beaches from southern Alaska to California, possibly in volumes large enough to clog ports, Ebbesmeyer said.
Using models from a historic shipwreck that occurred 20 miles off Neah Bay, Ebbesmeyer and Ingraham have determined the path of debris that comes into that area off the Washington coast.
They said debris will be snagged by currents leading into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and that a large portion of it will end up on beaches from the mouth of the Elwha River to Port Townsend.
Many ocean models have shown that the massive congregation of flotsam that washed away from devastated Japanese coastal cities is in the middle of the Pacific and won’t make landfall in the U.S. for another year or two.
Most of it is exactly where those models predicted, but those models don’t take into account wind and flotsam with large areas exposed to the wind, said Ebbesmeyer, who became famous for his and Ingraham’s ocean research into currents after large spills of Nike shoes and bath toys from container ships in the 1990s.
Flotsam in a current travels an average of seven miles per hour, but it can move as much as 20 mph if it has a large area exposed to the wind, he said.
The float that was found in Neah Bay sits well above the water, has a very shallow draft and is lightweight, exactly what Ingraham’s computer model said would show up first.
It was found by Surfrider beach cleanup crews working on a Makah-owned beach on the strait, a few miles east of Neah Bay, Ebbesmeyer said.
The black floats are seen in the middle of the Pacific by the hundreds, and are not something that has been seen on Eastern Pacific beaches before, he said.
The floats are included in masses of black blobs supporting huge rafts of debris that include fishing boats, houses and possibly human bodies, Ebbesmeyer said.
Many of those bodies and parts of bodies will likely begin washing up in about a year, some simply as feet in athletic shoes, similar to those found in Puget Sound over the last decade, he said.
Ebbesmeyer has done extensive research on those feet, and said that many more may be found in coming years.
Athletic shoes make the perfect floats to preserve parts of bodies, Ebbesmeyer said, and there are still thousands of people missing from tsunami-stricken areas of Japan.
Shoes with remains or other possibly human remains found on beaches should be reported to the appropriate authorities, either police, sheriff’s deputies or park rangers, he said.
If the debris has any kind of identifiable marking, such as numbers or Japanese writing, it may be traceable, Ebbesmeyer said.
“All debris should be treated with a great reverence and respect,” he said.
Families in Japan are waiting to hear of any items that may have been associated with their loved ones and may travel to the U.S. to meet those who found these mementos, he added.
Items that wash up may include portions of houses, boats, ships, furniture, portions of cars and just about anything else that floats, he said.
The rafts of debris include whole houses which may still contain many personal items, and the Japanese are known for storing important personal mementos in walls, Ebbesmeyer said.
Even the smallest of traceable items may be the only thing associated with one of those people who were lost during the disaster, he said.
Contact Ebbesmeyer at for assistance in translation and to track tsunami debris back to its Japanese origins.
“I have a translator to read things in Japanese,” he said.
Large items still in the water should be reported to the Coast Guard, as they may represent a hazard to boats and ships, he said.
Some shipping lanes have already been rerouted to avoid the worst of the debris, he said.
People should also be aware of the possibility of radiation contamination, he said.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant leaked a large amount of radiation into the water in the wake of the tsunami, and no one knows what levels of contamination there are in the currents, and the items being carried in those currents, he said.
Ebbesmeyer suggested local police take steps to have sensitive Geiger counters available to scan items — just to be safe.

The event was unprecedented, and no one knows yet what levels of radiation, if any, items have picked up, he said.

 This article was originally published in the Penensula Daily News.

Narragansett Bay Journal, Winter Issue #21

The Winter issue of the Narragansett Bay Journal was distributed to subscribers on December 7th. This issue focused on solid waste across a broad set of topics. We have solicited articles from many organizations to give our readers a broad selection of important and timely issues we face in the Narragansett Bay Region.

The Narragansett Bay Journal welcomes contributions from our readers and we encourage folks to send their story ideas, letters, articles, photographs, drawings, poems, cartoons, etc to Lesley Lambert at

Below you will find a link to the complete issue as well as links to each individual article. Most of the material published in the Narragansett Bay Journal may be reprinted free of charge with permission. Please contact Lesley if you would like to reprint any of these articles.  
"Stroking Monet" a junk assemblage by Tom Deininger.
Read about his work in the Urban Nature in Art article
Individual Articles

Friday, November 4, 2011

King Tide: The Mightiest of All Tides

The king tide nearly washed over the bridge in Wickford R.I.
To view more photos of the effects of the
king tide in R.I. click here.

Do you live by the shore?  During the past week did you notice a significant rise in sea level?  If so, what you witnessed was most likely the result of a king tide.  The term “king tide” refers to a remarkably high tide.  This king tide – like all others – offers us a preview of what our coastlines will look like as the sea level rises.  To put things in perspective, mean high tide in Newport, Rhode Island is generally measured at 3.6 feet; however, during a king tide, this level can rise to 5.2 feet. Not only have high tides been extremely high in the past two months, but the rate at which sea level rises has been increasing over the past 100 years.  Because of this, our coastlines are being inundated with more salt water. And areas at or below sea level are experiencing more flooding than they have in the past.

Like all tides, the king tide is influenced by the relationship of the distance between the Moon, Sun, and Earth.  During its 28-day cycle around the earth, the moon’s gravitational pull exerts a significant force on the oceans.  When the moon and sun are in a parallel line with the earth, the gravitational pull of the moon and sun create spring tides. These are the stronger tides we see during the full and new moon phase. When the earth is in between the sun and moon—a new moon—the spring tide is lower than when the sun and moon are on the same side of the earch. However, when the moon is perpendicular (90ยบ) to the line of the sun and earth, we experience weaker tides, known as the neap tides.
The tidal cycle during a lunar month.

Although the east coast experiences two high and two low tides every day, the height of the tide changes each time. We experience two spring tides each month (during the full and new moon) but a king tide only comes along twice a year. The summer king tide generally tends to take place during the day while the winter king tide most often occurs at night, which garners it less notice. However, this year the king tide also occurred during sunlight hours, raising more awareness of the potential effects sea level rise will have in the coming century.  To be more exact, this year, in North Kingstown, the king tide took place on October 26, 27, and 28 at 7:46AM, 8:37AM, and 9:28AM, respectively. 

The Phrase King Tide originated in New Zeeland, Australia and other Pacific nations, possibly because they experience greater effects from tides due to their location in the vast open Pacific Ocean. The island nation of Tuvalu is also located in the middle of the Pacific and is made up of low-lying atolls that has been extremely affected by the combination of king tides and sea level rise. 

Here in New England the king tide was easily seen and impacted many coastal areas. In Rhode Island, citizens were invited to post photos on the R.I. Sea Grant Facebook page of the effects of this tide. Perhaps the most remarkable photos were those that displayed the disparity between low and extremely high tides (from a king tide) in Wickford, Jamestown, and along the Pawtuxet River, among other locales.

On Long Wharf in Boston, MA the king tide actually covered much of the wharf and flooded the streets.Watch the video above to see what the Wharf looked like on October 28th.

While king tide – along with its high and strong waves in the summer – may attract many adventurers, it is a force not to be reckoned with, as its strength can be deadly.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Restoration Celebration!

Pawtuxet River Restoration Commemoration
     On Friday, September 30th, the Pawutxet River Restoration Team will be cutting the ribbon to celebrate the restoration of the Pawtuxet River. In August, the Pawtuxet River Authority and its partners demolished the obsolete Pawtuxet Falls Dam, restoring natural flows to the river and opening passage for native migratory fish which have been absent from the river for 300 years!
      The agenda begins at 10 A.M. on Broad Street Bridge in Pawtuxet Village, overlooking the restored Falls. The Narragansett Indian Tribe will offer an invocation to the River and blessing for the return of the fish runs. A speaking program features state, federal and local environmental leaders and restoration partners, including Governor Lincoln Chaffee, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, EPA regional administrator Curt Spalding, RIDEM Director Janet Coit, and Jonathan Stone, executive director of Save The Bay. Finally, a group of canoeists and kayakers will paddle down the Pawtuxet River and into Narragansett Bay--a new "Blueways" water trail made possible by the dam removal.
     Following the events on the bridge, the Pawtuxet Restoration Team will host a reception at the Aspray Boat House in Pawtuxet Park--just south of the bridge--beginning at noon, with a light lunch provided.
     This event is open to the public and all are encouraged to attend. 

About the Restoration:                                                                                                                
Demolition began on the Warwick side where fish
 passage is targeted for best low-flow conditions.
     In August 2011, the waters of the Pawtuxet River rushed over the natural bedrock falls at the river's mouth, flowing freely into the salt water of Narragansett Bay for the first time in 300 years. The river restoration was the result of the largest ecological dam removal project yet undertaken in Rhode Island, led by the  Pawtuxet River Authority and Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, with funding and technical assistance from more than a dozen federal, state and private organizations (see list below).
     The purpose of the project is to improve the ecosystems of the Pawtuxet River watershed and Narragansett Bay by restoring populations of native migratory fish, such as river herring and American shad, which have been blocked from fully accessing their natural spawning habitat for hundreds of years. Herring and shad are important components of marine and freshwater ecosystems, providing abundant food for bluefish, striped bass, largemouth bass, herons, ospreys and many other predators-even harbor seals, which winter in the Bay. The dam removal will directly benefit Rhode Island's $200 million fishing industry, provide modest flood reduction for homes and businesses, improve water quality in the lower Pawtuxet River, and restore boating access between the river and the Bay.
Excavator putting an engineered steel plate into place.
     Throughout the month of August, contractors used excavators fitted with hydraulic hammers to break up the 150 foot concrete spillway of Pawtuxet Falls Dam, removing it from the river as rubble. The concrete dam was built in 1924, replacing an earlier timber dam. The project restores seven miles of free-flowing river habitat to one of the state's largest and most historic rivers, increasing its velocity and reducing its depth along its downstream reach by two to three feet. Biologists estimate that more than 100,000 herring and shad will return annually to spawn in the Pawtuxet now that the dam has been removed. To speed the river's recovery, RIDEM biologists will stock herring and shad into the river, while PRA's construction contractors will install native wetland plants and trees along newly exposed riverbanks.
     The Pawtuxet River restoration project was made possible through a collaboration of more than a dozen federal, state, local and private organizations which provided funding, technical assistance, and volunteer work. The construction and planting phases cost approximately $600,000, funded primarily by the USDA Natural Resources conservation Service under its Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and R.I. Dept. of Environmental Management under the Narragansett Bay and Watershed Restoration Bond Fund.

Hunters Garage

For more information about the event, contact:                                          

Rita L. Holahan, Pawtuxet River Authority,  
(401) 935-0723
Thomas Ardito, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program  
(401) 575-6109 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Narragansett Bay Journal, Fall Issue #20

The Fall issue of the Narragansett Bay Journal was distributed to subscribers on September 7th. This issue focused on sustainability across a broad set of topics. With 16 articles, this is one of our largest issues yet! We have solicited articles from many organizations to give our readers a broad selection of important and timely issues we face in the Narragansett Bay Region.
The Narragansett Bay Journal welcomes contributions from our readers and we encourage folks to send their story ideas, letters, articles, photographs, drawings, poems, cartoons, etc to Lesley Lambert at
Below you will find a link to the complete issue as well as links to each individual article. Most of the material published in the Narragansett Bay Journal may be reprinted free of charge with permission. Please contact Lesley if you would like to reprint any of these articles.

Fall 2011, Complete Issue
Individual Articles
The Local Catch can be found at many of the Farmers Markets
throughout Rhode Island. To learn more read the article
The Changing Face of Agriculture and Smart Growth.

The next issue is set to come out December 7th, and will focus on solid waste. The issue will highlight the coastal clean-up that will take place on National Estuaries Day (September 24th), an update on the health of Narragansett Bay beaches, and the trash TMDL. Other articles include resource recovery, recycle-a-bike efforts, urban trash art, and reducing trash during the holidays. If you have any suggestions for articles, contributors, photographs, drawings, poems, etc, please send them to Lesley Lambert at!

Click here to sign up to receive the electronic edition of the Narragansett Bay Journal.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nature, Art and History at the Norman Bird Sanctuary

 Tucked away on Third Beach Road in Middletown, R.I. is a natural haven known as the Norman Bird Sanctuary (NBS).  In 1949 Mabel Norman Cerio willed approximately 235 acres of land, a portion of her original Paradise Farm in Middletown, Rhode Island, "for the propagation, preservation and protection of birds, and where birds and bird life may be observed, studied, taught and enjoyed by lovers of nature and by the public generally so interested in a spirit of humanity and mercy." Over the years, NBS has grown to include more than 325 acres of diverse habitats, and its mission remains true to Mabel Norman Cerio's original vision.
With seven miles of trails, a visitor’s center, beach education center, natural history museum, vegetable garden, chicken coup, and gift shop, the NBS offers entertainment and education to every visitor. With camp programs, field trips, garden workshops, harvest fairs and more, the Norman Bird Sanctuary is a leader in environmental education in Rhode Island.
Exploring the beach.
This summer NBS received a grant from The Rhode Island Foundation’s Newport County Fund to turn their original small garden plot into an educational, multi-garden area called The Good Gardens and to provide education programs on gardening to community organizations.  A partnership with the Martin Luther King Jr. Center (MLK) in Newport was established. This partnership has brought the children of the MLK Center out to the Sanctuary to learn about gardening and how the coastal environment played a role in Native American gardening.   Each week a new group of students from kindergarten through grade 6 take a field trip to NBS. The field trip begins with a tour around the touch tanks in the Third Beach Education Center where the NBS has collected many specimens of local fish as well as some tropical species that have traveled north on the Gulfstream and come into our estuary. Then they head over to Third Beach to explore the shore. After collecting the coolest things they could find, the children learn about what they found.
Listening to the sound of the ocean through a whelk shell.
The counselors also show the children how Native Americans used the natural resources. For example, the purple inside of a quahog shell was used as currency known as wampum. The Native Americans also used seaweed to fertilize their crops, shells to make gardening tools, and whelk egg casings as baby rattles.
After exploring the beach the camp returns to the Sanctuary to investigate the farm. They learn about vegetables, herbs and fruits, and how they are grown. NBS has used a Native American technique known as “three sisters” in their garden. The three sisters are corn, squash and beans. Corn is planted in the middle, beans are next so they can grow up the corn and squash are planted around the base of the corn.  The bean vines produce nitrogen in the soil—providing nutrients to all the plants.
Corn, squash and green beans grow very well
together and make up the three sisters.
After learning how the garden grows, the children got a taste of the ripe vegetables they found in the garden. Although not all children willingly eat vegetables, some found they actually enjoyed zucchini, tomatoes broccoli and cucumbers. In fact, some children began asking their parents to pick up zucchini and squash at the MLK pantry!
Aside from the hands-on outdoor experience this partnership offers to the children in Newport, it will also provide funding and technical assistance to install a garden center at the Martin Luther King Center.
This past year NBS also developed a partnership with Central Falls High School, where the students were given the opportunity to take field trips to the Sanctuary, learn about the plants, animals and natural history of the area. They brought their knowledge back to the city with them. After cleaning up their neighborhood park they planted trees and a peace garden with the students from other Central Falls schools. The students at Central Falls High School confidently spread their environmental literacy through a YouTube video.
But children’s education is not all they do at the Norman Bird Sanctuary. There are many events for adults as well. In September they will host a number of events for families and adults. Something of That Nature, an art show inspired by nature and the Norman Bird Sanctuary, will be held at the Third Beach Education Center September 9th through the 11th. The event is free and open to the public. As is their international coastal clean up on September 24th.
These mushrooms were found in New
Hampshire, but mushrooms thrive in
moist areas, so you are bound to see a
lot on the hike!
The Norman Bird Sanctuary will also host a Mushroom Walk in the Woods on Saturday the 17th for $10-members, $12-non-members. They also offer field trips for homeschooling, story-time in the garden, bird walks, and garden classes. Their annual fall Harvest Fair is scheduled for October 1st – 2nd.  To learn more about these special events go to
Whether you are an avid birder, a natural explorer, or just want a place to walk around in nature, the Norman Bird Sanctuary offers the perfect place for you to observe, learn and enjoy some of the natural habitats and resources our state has to offer.