Rhode Island’s environmental protection activities are handled by the department of environmental management, which is also responsible for parks, natural resource protection, fish and wildlife, and agricultural programs. Many of the department’s activities are aimed at protecting the remaining open space in the state. For example, the state has a forestry program, a shorelands protection program, and a wetlands management program. Progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000, the amount of toxic chemicals discharged into the environment was reduced by 65 percent.
Rhode Island’s air quality is generally good. Except for four days in which levels of ozone exceeded federal standards, in 1995 all five counties in Rhode Island met federal goals. The state has devoted much effort to regulating the emission of toxic air pollutants from industries.
Rhode Island’s hazardous waste management laws predate those of the federal government and are generally more stringent. Most of Rhode Island’s hazardous waste is shipped to other states for disposal. In 2008 the state had 12 hazardous waste sites on a federal priority list for cleanup because of their severity or proximity to people. Rhode Island has a large state-owned solid waste landfill. The state devotes much effort to such solid waste problems as landfill capacity, resource recovery, and recycling. Of the 39 municipalities, all have a recycling program, nearly all of which require mandatory participation. Water management is important because of the state’s high concentration of people near its wetlands and shoreline. Pollutants such as those from sewage treatment plants remain a problem in some parts of the state.
Improvements are being made, the most significant being a reconstruction of the state’s largest sewage treatment plant, located in Providence. Heavy rains cause combined sewage and stormwater runoff systems in metropolitan Providence to overwhelm treatment facilities, resulting in inadequately treated effluent entering Narragansett Bay. Overall, significant improvements are being made in the quality of both freshwater and saltwater in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island is faced with an increasing number of applications to construct on its remaining wetlands. The state is one of very few to coordinate its wetlands permit program with the “dredge and fill” permit program of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. This coordination helps protect the wetlands from development. "Rhode Island" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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