Slacks Pond beach empty as droppings pile up

Slacks Pond beach empty as droppings pile up

Albert Aubin said the town should be ashamed of the situation at Slacks Pond Beach where he said the area is 70 percent covered in animal droppings. (Breeze photo Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – At 81 years old, Albert Aubin said he’s never seen a public beach as empty as Slacks Pond in Smithfield, and he said the 1,000 piles of feces is the reason why.

After reading in The Valley Breeze & Observer about the closing of Georgiaville Pond due to blue-green algae, Aubin, who lives in Glocester, decided to return to his childhood beach and take a walk around the pond.

What he found left him saddened and disgusted.

“Seventy percent of the beach is dung to dung,” Aubin said.

“I’ve never seen a beach so filthy in my life. Filthy. Kids play there,” he said.

When he was young, Aubin said he lived with his family in a cabin across from the small peninsula that is Slacks Pond Beach, also known as Greenlake Beach. He said summers in the 1950s and ’60s saw the beach completely full of people enjoying the water.

Last Friday, Aug. 2, one family played in the water at Slacks Beach, while lifeguards stood on duty. One lifeguard said the piles were due to geese landing on the peninsula to take a break.

Aubin disagreed, pointing to large dog prints in the sand.

“This is a slap in the face to the people in the town. They don’t want anybody using it,” Aubin said.

Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Robert Caine also asserted that the droppings were from geese. He said the problem with geese droppings at Slacks has been going on for at least 100 years.

He said while the beach portion of the peninsula is raked daily to keep it clean, the end of the sandbar is not and feces pile up there.

“It looks like dog poop. It’s huge,” Caine said.

Dogs are not allowed on the beach, Caine said. People do not follow the rules, though, and Caine said people still bring their dogs there.

“There are signs all over the place to make sure you pick up the dog poop,” he said.

He noted that lifeguards are not responsible for picking up the geese droppings.

Parks and Recreation conducts monthly water testing for bacteria caused by human and animal fecal matter. The blue-green algae test is done twice a month.

Potential risks of exposure to fecal matter in water, specifically the enterococci and fecal coliform bacteria, may cause eye, ear, nose, throat, skin, respiratory, and gastrointestinal diseases, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Caine said the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management recently switched the water-testing fee schedule, forcing municipalities to cover the costs of testing the water. For a blue-green algae test, the town pays $250 each time. The bacteria test for fecal matter is $50.

With Slacks being free to Smithfield residents, and Georgiaville charging low annual rates of $10 for residents and $20 for non-residents, Caine said operating local beaches is not a profitable venture.

He said the Slacks Reservoir Association also conducts water testing of the pond. Representatives from the association did not respond to comment.

Aubin suggests that the town or association put up fences by the entrance to keep dogs from getting onto the beach. Though he said the mess should be cleaned up, he said he is worried about the health and safety of the lifeguards as well as beach-goers.

“It’s a putrid minefield of infected dung,” Augin said.

He said the attitude keeping the mess on the beach is as poisonous as the mess itself. The fecal matter feeds the blue-green algae, he warned.

Over the years, Slacks Pond Beach has repeatedly closed due to blue-green algae. It was reported in 2016 that the beach had been closed for four years from 2012 to 2016.

At the time, the town said it was unable to find lifeguards to staff the beach. Slacks had three lifeguards on duty last Friday and Georgiaville Pond Beach has two.

Georgiaville Beach reopened as of Aug. 2 following two water tests for blue-green algae that were within the suitable range.