Blackstone River Watershed Association
The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
TIP OF THE MONTH
The truth about the “Light Bulb Ban”
In January 2012, new regulations go into effect that set energy
efficiency standards for screw-in light bulbs. The regulations result
from the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), a bipartisan
bill aimed at helping the U.S. become more energy independent. Critics
have screamed loudly that “big government” is taking away the consumers
right to choose, forcing bad, costly technology down our throats and
generally bringing about the end of western civilization.
Which brings us to the following myths about EISA:
The new standards will give the consumer more lighting choices. When
we used to run to the store for a 100W bulb we were really buying a
1500 to 1700 lumen bulb. Lumens are a unit of light output. With
new labeling under the law, the consumer will be able to easily shop
for bulbs with the desired light output and appearance, and compare
the purchase cost, operating cost and suitability for their application.
A win for consumers and a win for energy conservation.
- In January 2012, all incandescent
bulbs will be banned by the government.
Not true. First, the new standards are being phased in over 2 years.
Second, no technology is singled out or prohibited by EISA. The law
merely sets standards for efficiency, 28% reduction over current
incandescent bulbs. It is up to manufacturers to provide lighting
products consumers demand that meet the new standards. And they have.
All the major manufacturers are currently offering products that meet
not only the 2012 requirements, but also the 2013 and 2014 standards
- It will cost more to light my house.
Mostly not true. New technologies that meet the standards, including
the new incandescent bulbs, cost more to purchase but cost less to
operate. Some technologies, like Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL)
offer much longer life as well. One brand of new incandescent is
about $1.50 at the orange box store. Overall, new bulbs will save
money over time in most but not all applications.
- I won’t get the same quality of light.
It’s true that not all technologies fit all applications. CFLs in
particular have come under criticism for their light “quality”. By
all indications, the new incandescent bulbs offer the same characteristics
as their less efficient predecessors. It will be up to the consumer
to balance cost, efficiency and quality factors for a given application.
- CFLs contain mercury and, therefore, are bad for the environment.
Fluorescent bulbs do contain a very small amount of mercury and
once they burn out they must be properly disposed. However, the
amount of mercury in the bulbs has been significantly decreased
with new technologies and a less-energy efficient incandescent bulb
releases far more mercury into the environment if its electricity
is sourced from a coal-fired power plant. For more info, see this
ENERGY STAR Fact Sheet.
BRWA Annual Meeting/Member Appreciation Event
The BRWA held it’s Member Appreciation Event and Annual Meeting on
November 5. The evening began with a short business meeting and
light dinner. During the business meeting, the election of officers
was held resulting in the re-election of Dona Neely as President,
Tammy Gilpatrick as Vice President/Treasurer and Mike Sperry as Secretary.
During the meeting, BRWA president Dona Neely highlighted the many
examples of how the BRWA Engaged, Educated and Advocated on behalf
of the Watershed in the previous year and announced the Priorities
for 2012 which include:
Dona thanked the members for their contribution to a successful 2011.
- Stream Team Survey focusing on improving the water quality
of cold water fisheries within the watershed.
- The Watershed & Us program teaching students how what we do
on the land impacts our rivers and streams
- Pull the Plants Party, a 3-year initiative to remove the Asian
Water Chestnut infestation from Rice City Pond.
The full presentation is available at our
website. Click on “2011 in
Review and Plans for 2012”. Be sure to contact us to participate
in our exciting programs to protect and improve your Watershed.
The business meeting was followed with a terrific presentation by
local birders Beth Milke and Strickland Wheelock on the annual
Saw-whet Owl banding program in the Watershed. They introduced us
to the characteristics and behavior of the Northern Saw-whet Owl
and the methods and scientific contributions of the volunteer
banding project. We then headed off to the banding site to meet the
team, get a closer look at the equipment and methods and meet the
owls “in-person”. This was a truly memorable event for all who
participated. This saw-whet season is over now but, if anyone would
like more information about the project or to visit the banding
station next fall, they can email
Beth Milke to be added to the mailing list.
Thank You Water Quality Monitoring Volunteers
The BRWA thanks the Water Quality Monitoring
(WQM) volunteers who collect monthly water samples throughout the
Watershed and to the lab volunteers who analyze the samples and
coordinate the drop-off. The dedication of these citizen scientists
is at the heart of our objective to improve water quality in the
Watershed. If you want to join us at this important work, contact
Mike Sperry, Mid-section
Field Coordinator or Tammy Gilpatrick, Blackstone River Coalition WQM Program Coordinator. It’s easy,
it’s fun and it makes a real difference.
A Call to Action: Restoring the Blackstone - By Susan L. Thomas
For generations, the Blackstone River has
provided people with food, water, transportation, energy, employment,
recreation, and spiritual sustenance. It has worked long and hard
doing this, and now needs a helping hand to regain its natural balance.
To that end, the Blackstone River Coalition presented a
“Blackstone River Revival” conference in Northbridge on November 16, 2011.
Speakers provided government, citizen, business, and university
perspectives on topics including river restoration, water quality,
recreation, and creation of a Blackstone National Historical Park.
Both the presentations and following discussions energized audience
members to find a personal role in stewarding the Blackstone and its
The River Revival conference provided a wealth of information, and an
important roadmap to our ongoing efforts to restore and preserve the
Blackstone River. A summary of conference presentations follows below.
The Powerpoint presentations can be viewed at the
Blackstone River Coalition website.
Blackstone River Revival - Keynote Speakers
Tim Purinton, Director of the MA Division of
Ecological Restoration, gave the keynote address on river restoration
opportunities. The Division’s overall goal is to restore self-sustaining
ecological processes to the Blackstone River. Challenges include loss
of wetlands, degraded and fragmented riverine systems, numerous dams
and culverts, and climate change. Several case studies of ecological
restoration were highlighted, including a four-year, $2.5-million
dollar project along the Eel River in Plymouth. A holistic approach
was taken that included restoring 40 acres of wetlands, removing six
barriers, planting 17,000 Atlantic white cedars, restoring a natural
meander to the waterway, and restoring habitat complexity by depositing
large amounts of woody material recycled from a development project.
More information can be found at
In a second keynote later in the evening, Jan Reitsma, Executive
Director of the JHC Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor
Commission, updated the audience on the proposal to establish a new
National Park for the Blackstone Valley that would include the river itself.
The legislation, currently in Congress, is supported by the New England
governors, the Mass DCR, the National Park Service, and the Secretary of
the Interior. Although National Park status would not provide any new
moneys for restoration projects, funding already in the Park system
could be reallocated to the Blackstone. The bike path, in various
stages of completion between Worcester and Providence, is key to the
park and will connect and enhance visitors’ experience.
Blackstone River Revival - Restoration
River restoration planning must focus on
ecological continuity. Those designing and implementing such plans
need to consider the following criteria: topography (the Blackstone
has a high density of dams), impervious cover (the watershed contains
heavily developed areas in Worcester, Woonsocket and Pawtucket),
stream-flow alteration (the Blackstone experiences problems with both
too little and too much flow), contaminated sediments, water quality
(includes nonpoint source pollution, wastewater discharge, sediments
and more), and climate change. The U.S. Geological Survey issued a
report that provides in-depth coverage of many of these topics.
Larry Oliver with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Grafton Town
Planner Steve Bishop, and Sam Whitin with EA Engineering, Science
and Technology, Inc., discussed the coordination of stakeholders in
restoration projects. Budget restrictions create a need to prioritize
Corps projects with an emphasis on habitat scarcity, connectivity,
presence of species with special status, and self-sustaining outcomes.
Priority is also given to projects that are part of a larger plan.
The involvement of the Corps in the Blackstone River includes efforts
in both MA and R.I., and it is currently working with the R.I. DEM on
a feasibility study for the Elizabeth Webbing Dam. The 10-Mile River
project in East Providence, R.I. involves a large number of partners
and is complex due to the amount of utilities tied in to one of the
three dams that currently obstruct fish passage.
Grafton’s Fisherville Mill operations left groundwater heavily
contaminated with chemicals and metals, and a catastrophic fire in
1999 released asbestos and additional toxins into the soil and water.
Heating oil also contributed to the site’s Tier 1A status. Ongoing
cleanup and restoration efforts are complicated by the fact that the
Blackstone River and the mill’s canal both bracket the toxic site.
Fisherville is an excellent example of how stakeholders can coordinate
to maximize ecological restoration to a brown field site. Funding for
the project comes from the U.S. EPA, the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act, state 40R incentive grants, and local Community
Preservation Act (CPA) funds.
Fisherville is a ready-made outdoor classroom for innovative
environmental technology. Butane is being injected to speed up
bacterial breakdown of leaking heating oil and a permanent in-canal
“greenhouse” using plants, animals, and fungi removes contaminants
from the water and sediments. Surface oil is being removed in a
skimming process. Dams and pumps are used to divert water entering
from Fisherville Pond away from the more contaminated canal section
and route it instead into the main river channel. This will prevent
further transport of the chemicals currently in the canal.
Efforts to restore fish passage along the Blackstone at Valley Falls,
the Elizabeth Webbing dam, and Slater Mills are gaining momentum.
Each obstruction poses its own unique challenges, which include
preserving historic integrity, bridge structural integrity, and
hydropower facilities while also containing project costs. Despite
these hurdles, however, water quality has been restored to the point
that fish passage improvements can now be considered.
Blackstone River Revival - Water Quality
The foundation of successful river restoration
is improving water quality. Timothy Randhir, UMass Department of
Environmental Conservation, Elizabeth Scott, R.I. DEP, and Donna
Williams, Blackstone River Coalition President covered this topic
beginning with explanations of land use, runoff pathways, infiltration,
water balance, and nutrient loading. Data collected can be used to
help set conservation policy. For example, scientists can help identify
problem areas within the watershed by assessing land use and impervious cover.
Rhode Island is a downstream state in the Blackstone River watershed,
but it faces the same water quality issues as Massachusetts, including
excess nutrients that increase aquatic plant growth, reduced dissolved
oxygen, unsafe bacteria levels, heavy metals, and pathogens. These
lead to contaminated fish and impaired aquatic life. We need to address
the sources of these problems, including combined sewer overflows,
sediment sloughing and re-suspension, waste sites and dumping, and
agricultural and urban runoff. However, data collection and policy
decisions are only effective with adequate funding. Currently, general
revenues are used, but Scott discussed the idea of MA and RI establishing
Stormwater Utilities with a fee system that would generate additional
revenue to fund water quality assessments and improvement projects.
The BRC’s annual water quality report card helps citizens to
understand problem areas and what might need to be done to improve a
particular sight. For example, a site that shows a trend of increased
phosphates might lead to educating area homeowners about minimizing
lawn fertilizers. The building boom of the 1990s and early 2000s
dramatically increased impervious cover that in turn led to a marked
increase in storm water runoff. Not only does this runoff degrade
streams and rivers—it also serves to “dewater” groundwater systems.
With Worcester, Woonsocket, and Pawtucket as primary targets, the
BRC’s Blackstone Stormwater Stewards Initiative reaches out to
homeowners and business owners to promote three BMPs. Rain gardens
are shallow basins excavated and planted with native grasses,
wildflowers and shrubs designed to intercept and capture roof runoff
rather than having it enter storm water drains. They are a relatively
simple, inexpensive method of increasing infiltration and can be
established for homes, schools, and businesses. A similar practice is
using rain barrels to capture and store water for gardening or other
uses, thus reducing our use of municipal water resources. Related
to both rain gardens and rain barrels is the simple but under-utilized
practice of diverting downspouts away from driveways, walkways, and
other impervious surfaces. Again, the goal is to reduce our water
budget by increasing infiltration into the ground.
Blackstone River Revival - Recreation
The final section of the River Revival conference
focused on recreation and river access. Peter Coffin with the BRC
demonstrated the ease with which information on the bikeway and riverway
can be obtained (see related article below).
This includes access points and the status of various construction
projects. Coffin emphasized that the great number of access points
are due largely to grassroots efforts.
Jim Plasse with the BRWA reviewed volunteer stewardship efforts along the
Blackstone, including annual cleanups and the removal of invasive aquatic plants.
He explained that the organization’s goal of promoting recreational
use through improved river access would result in a large citizen base
committed to protecting this natural resource. Keith Hainley with the
about their efforts to get kids out on the water and active in the
|CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Uxbridge First Holiday Night
Sutton Chain of Lights 10am - 4pm
Grafton Celebrates the Holidays noon-4pm
Millbury Salutes the Holidays 2011 Chain of Lights
BRWA Board Meeting 6:30pm 271 Oak St., Uxbridge
IN YOUR COMMUNITY
New River and Bikeway Tools on Heritage Corridor Website
Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor website and try
out the new tools that help visitors explore the river and bikeway.
Through the use of Google Earth files, the site provides an interactive
overview of paddling access information and the status of the bikeway.
To access the files you will first need Google Earth. From the Corridor
home page, click Explore. Then click either Bikeway or Get On The River.
Find “Google Earth” in the right column of the page and click to save or
open the file. See Peter Coffin’s
presentation from the recent Blackstone River Revival conference for
OF GLOBAL INTEREST
Cost Calculator Helps Compare Vehicle Savings and Impact
The U. S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities
initiative just introduced their new
Vehicle Cost Calculator giving consumers an opportunity to take the
long view by providing both a vehicle’s lifetime cost and its cost-per-mile.
Users select from a database of new and used (back to 1996) vehicles and
enter their miles driven and highway/city usage. The tool calculates
annual fuel use, annual electricity use, annual fuel/electricity cost,
annual operating cost (including fuel, tires, maintenance, registration,
license, and insurance), cost per mile and annual CO2 emissions. It also
provides a graph of cumulative cost of ownership by year. Conventional,
alternative fuel, and electric drive vehicles are included. Consumers
now have a chance to compare the overall cost of vehicles
(up to eight at a time) rather than rely on initial purchase price and
fuel economy and choose those that best meet their needs both today and
in the future.
2011 Rachel Carson "Sense of Wonder" Contest Winners
The winners have been announced in the Rachel
Carson Sense of Wonder Contest, a poetry, essay, photo and dance contest
sponsored by the EPA, Generations United, the Dance Exchange, National
Center for Creative Aging and the Rachel Carson Council, Inc.
here to view the work of the winners.
Views & opinions expressed in linked websites do not necessarily
state or reflect those of the BRWA.
Your input is crucial to this eNewsletter. If you have a local
watershed-related story, information of interest to our subscribers, or
comments about this publication, drop an email to the editor.|
The Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) has a mission to
engage, educate and advocate for improved water quality in the Blackstone
River Watershed; its objectives are to:
The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed
Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
- Engage the public in watershed stewardship activities,
- Educate members, supporters and watershed residents on watershed protection strategies, and
- Improve the water quality and esthetics of the Blackstone River Watershed’s water bodies.
Editor: Michael Sperry firstname.lastname@example.org
Mailing address: BRWA, 271 Oak Street Uxbridge, MA 01569
Phone: 508-278-5200 Web: www.thebrwa.org
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