sewage pollution

water pollution beach closures

Sewage closes beaches and shellfish beds

Although sewage treatment plants and properly functioning septic systems help keep waters clean, swimming beaches and shellfish beds are still polluted by cesspools, stormwater runoff, and combined sewer overflows (CSOs).  

To protect public health, state agencies are required to close swimming beaches and shellfish beds when sewage pollution levels spike.


Rhode Island's coastal beaches are one of our state's greatest natural resources. Currently, the state has 124 licensed bathing facilities (69 of which are marine facilities) along about 400 miles of Narragansett Bay and Atlantic Ocean coastal waters. 

The Rhode Island Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for monitoring and managing the state's beach water quality program. Presently the "beach season" runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Federal funding from the BEACH Act of 2000 fully supports DOH's Beach Monitoring Program.

Shellfish Beds

Narragansett Bay has an abundance of shellfish that are harvested commercially and recreationally. Clams, mussels, and oysters are popular in area restaurants. When heavy rains hit Narragansett Bay, shellfish beds are often closed because bacteria in sewage from wastewater system overflows, cesspools, and animal waste - which is in stormwater runoff - makes them unsafe to eat.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) issues notices of shellfish closures in the Ocean State. The economic impact of shellfish bed closures is felt by commercial shell fishermen, seafood dealers and restaurants, and tourism industries.