Message From the Town Planner

Stormwater flowing down the street and entering a catch basin during a rainstorm is a common sight in almost every neighborhood in Portsmouth. Have you ever stopped and wondered where that water ends up or what is actually in that water? The reality might surprise you.

Stormwater Misconceptions

In Portsmouth, most stormwater ends up in our coastal waters, either by direct overland flow or by flowing through our town-maintained storm drain system. Many people assume that storm drains lead to some type of treatment facility. That is almost never the case, and it definitely is not so in Portsmouth. Whatever enters local storm drains ultimately ends up in the bay.

What Causes the Polluted Water

Why is this a problem? Well, because in many cases, stormwater is polluted water. When rainwater hits the roadway or your roof top, it picks up and mixes with whatever is there. That may include everything from bird droppings to bacteria in dog waste to motor oil leaking from a car. It may include yard fertilizer spilled on the sidewalk, the soap used to wash a car in the driveway, or sand and salt from wintertime snow removal. And unfortunately, it may also include improperly treated human waste by coming in contact with a failing septic system.

Consequences for Local Waters

These various sources of contamination lead to various consequences for our local waters. In the worst cases, highly polluted stormwater runoff can contribute to closures of swimming beaches and shell fishing grounds, which we have unfortunately seen here in Portsmouth.


So, what can we do about this? Polluted stormwater is the result of the following two important contributing factors:
  • State and local land-use regulations and policies
  • Our own everyday personal actions as citizens and property owners
As citizens, we have an important role to play in both aspects. Through active public participation and informed decision making we can bring positive change to the former, and by being aware of our daily activities and their effect on water quality we can bring changes to the later.

My intention is to split this resource into the following two sections:

Island Waters - Portsmouth IDDE Inspection Results

The Town of Portsmouth previously entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) to implement an IDDE program
in the Portsmouth Park and Island Park neighborhoods. Fuss & O'Neill worked with the Town of
Portsmouth (Town) and Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) to negotiate modifications to the program outlined in the MOA with RIDEM to reduce redundant effort and clarify requirements. This memorandum summarizes the results of the Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE) inspection and sampling case study conducted in Portsmouth, RI, as part of the “Island Waters” project.