Blue Water Task Force
February 09 2010

Winter Sampling in Rhode Island

by Mara Dias

The Rhode Island Surfrider Chapter collects water samples year-round, so there is information available when a beautiful winter swell, like the one above, hits. RI's 2010 BWTF data is posted on the University of Rhode Island's website.

On The Edge

Water Test Results

by Peter Pan,
posted on Saturday, February 6th, 2010 at 11:12 am

The 2010 edition of the Surfrider Foundation Blue Water Task Force ocean water testing cycle began two weeks ago in relatively calm seas off the local coastline. On January 23, volunteer surfers braved the frigid air and water temperatures to collect their samples at 12 of the area’s premier surfing breaks. Despite the fact that there had been no major storm activity, there was some evidence of water pollution found in the results that were released yesterday. Several groups of bacteria species are used to indicate the presence of human sewage and associated pathogens or disease causing organisms. In Rhode Island two groups are monitored in order to protect human health-fecal coliforms and enterococci.

The highest pollution readings came at the same two problem spots. Both K-39 and the Weekapaug Breechway tested at 41 and 42 enterococci per 100 mL of water samples. The Rhode Island Department of Health standard for recreational contact (swimming and surfing) is 35 enterococci per 100 mL. or less. This means that there were increased risks of contracting gastrointestinal illnesses from water contact at those two surf spots. Although the criteria for marine waters is higher at 104 enterococci per 100 mL. this does not mean that the ocean water was clean by any standards. Local surfers are advised to avoid swallowing ocean water and covering up the ears when surfing these areas. It is also wise not to surf with an open cut or sore. All other surf breaks showed an average of 10 enterococci per 100 mL. which was passable and clean by Rhode Island Department of Health standards.

In the other water test involving fecal coliforms the Scarborough Beach South area showed the highest pollution content at 13 fecal coliform per 100 mL. Both Conant Avenue and First Beach in Newport had readings of 10 fecal coliforms per 100 mL. The standard for pollution alert is 14 fecal coliforms per 100 mL. so while both surf spots are just under the minimum requirements for pollution it is advisable not to surf without covering the ears and avoiding swallowing the ocean water at both locations.

Some volunteers felt that if the heavy rains that followed the water testing had occurred earlier the pollution levels probably would have been substantially higher at all the breaks. Blue Water Task Force coordinator Lauren Russo of Charlestown said that she was very pleased at the first turnout of volunteer water testers and appreciated the fact that all the testers had to paddle out in the water early in the morning to get the samples on the 23rd. The next test will take place on February 6th. For more information on volunteering to collect the samples, interested participants are asked to email Lauren at