The oral history of Mashapaug Pond is inextricably linked to issues of environmental change, health, and activism. On the outside, the pond is beautiful and serene, but toxins lurk beneath the surface and in the surrounding land. Concerns about pollution at Mashapaug go back more than 100 years. A 1905 report by the state Metropolitan Park Commission warned “Mashapaug may either be a huge cesspool for the next fifty years or it may be a splendid waterpark of constantly increasing value and fame.” Many former residents remember safely swimming and boating in the pond in the 1940s and 1950s, but politicians and health officials worried about the impact of frequent dumping at the time. More recently, pollution at Mashapaug has been linked to other causes, including stormwater runoff and the long-term impact of industrial waste, mainly from the former Gorham Silver Manufacturing Company.
The resources on this page are intended to provide a basic introduction to some of the current environmental issues relevant to Mashapaug Pond.
Remediation of the former Gorham Silver Manufacturing site
The Gorham Silver Manufacturing Company was located on Mashapaug’s northeastern shore for nearly 100 years. Gorham’s manufacturing processes contributed heavy metals and chlorinated solvents to soil and groundwater that flows into Mashapaug Pond. The solvents vaporize in the soil and create volatile organic compound gases that, without the proper ventilation and safety systems in place, pose a threat to any enclosed structures built on the old Gorham site. Textron and the City of Providence have divided responsibility for funding the remaining remediation of the Gorham site over the next several years. Alvarez High School was built on the former Gorham site in 2007 with a proper ventilation system in place after concerns about the toxicity of the site were brought before the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) by residents of Reservoir Triangle. The system includes a warning mechanism and is tested quarterly. The following letter was written in 2012 by Providence’s mayor, Angel Taveras and sent to all Alvarez families, faculty, and staff about the environmental health of the site and school, safety precautions that were in place, and current remediation plans.
Letter from Angel Taveras
In order to keep the remediation moving forward and the public informed, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island convenes quarterly meetings with Textron, RIDEM, the City of Providence Planning Department, Alvarez High School representatives, Reservoir Triangle residents and the Urban Pond Procession. Plans for the future include ball fields for the high school and walking trails through a public park around Mashapaug Cove, behind Alvarez. Textron has also provided an update on the status of the project as of August 2012.
The following links have been provided to us courtesy of the Environmental Justice League.
In 2012, the Environmental Justice League and Groundwork Providence led a tour around Mashapaug Pond to discuss issues of stormwater management. Check out the following links to learn more about it.
One of the many approaches to stormwater management is the construction of rain gardens. Rain gardens are small holes or depressions in the ground where plants are grown deliberately to suck up all the water that accumulates in that area. The following link shows some examples of plants that can serve this purpose and are found at Mashapaug Pond.
Efforts to clean up Mashapaug Pond and the surrounding area are ongoing. The following letter was written by Mayor Angel Taveras in 2012 and provides an update on efforts to remediate this region.
Textron has also provided an update on the status of the project.
And here’s a little history…