Tisbury Waterways tackles stormwater pollution today


For more than 20 years, Tisbury Waterways Inc. (TWI) has tested water for nutrients during rain events in order to advocate for mitigation of stormwater pollution entering our waterways. Results from our 2009 testing program revealed that one of the highest pollution counts continued to occur at the bottom of Owen Little Way, off Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

Because the road comes to an end at the harbor and is adjacent to the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club it was a prime candidate for a “rain garden,” which is also known as a bio-swale or vegetative buffer. This landscaping marvel is one of the most natural ways to filter stormwater run-off to prevent pollution, particularly harmful nitrogen, of marine environments.

Thanks to a grant from the Edey Foundation and generous help from the Tisbury Department of Public Works (DPW), not to mention a large number of dedicated individuals and businesses in the community, we were able to dig in. The project was completed late fall, 2010.

A workshop scheduled for 7 pm, Wednesday, May 4 at the Vineyard Haven Library will detail the installation of our bio-swale and provide information about why bio-swales are key pollution fighters in commercial settings as well as in one’s own backyard. We made a film chronicling the garden’s creation, which will also be shown.

Kate Venturini, research associate at the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences Outreach Center, will participate in the event. Currently, Ms. Venturini is managing the design and installation of Rhode Island’s largest community garden at Roger Williams Park in Providence, including a permaculture food forest. She recently developed and held the first residential rain garden training program for the state’s regulatory and green industry professionals.

We want to spread the word to Island residents and town departments in the hope that they will evaluate stormwater runoff in their neighborhoods and mitigate it by creating their own rain gardens.

We are pleased, too, that Tisbury now has its own state-certified water testing lab housed at the DPW. This important addition, made possible by a TWI gift to the town to assist the DPW in bringing the wastewater treatment plant’s lab up to state-certified standards, is due in no small part to the persistence and vision of Harriet Barrow, a TWI founder. Ms. Barrow has been at the forefront of protecting our marine waters with her continuous efforts at establishing a history of critical water testing data. She could provide interested individuals with key information regarding the importance of our water testing program, which really is ultimately responsible for the bio-swale.

For more information on TWI please go to tisburywaterways.org.

Pamela Street of Vineyard Haven is a board member of TWI.