Blackstone River Watershed Association
Blackstone River Watershed Association
In This Issue


BRWA Annual Meeting/Member Appreciation Event

Thank You Water Quality Monitoring Volunteers

A Call to Action: Restoring the Blackstone

- Keynote Speakers

- Restoration

- Water Quality

- Recreation



New River and Bikeway Tools on Heritage Corridor Website


New DOE Vehicle Cost Calculator

2011 Rachel Carson "Sense of Wonder" Contest Winners

BRWA Online
About the BRWA


Issue 23 November 2011

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

Rabindranath Tagore


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:
  1. 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 as well.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
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.


BRWA Annual Meeting/Member Appreciation Event

BRWA members @ 2011 Member Appreciation 1 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:
  • 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.
BRWA Members @ 2011 Member Appreciation 2 Dona thanked the members for their contribution to a successful 2011.

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.

saw-whet owl perched on branch 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 watershed.

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. (see

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 BRWC/FOB talked about their efforts to get kids out on the water and active in the cleanup efforts.


12/3 Uxbridge First Holiday Night   info
12/3 Sutton Chain of Lights 10am - 4pm   info
12/4 Grafton Celebrates the Holidays noon-4pm   info
12/4 Millbury Salutes the Holidays 2011 Chain of Lights   info
12/8 BRWA Board Meeting 6:30pm 271 Oak St., Uxbridge   info



New River and Bikeway Tools on Heritage Corridor Website
Visit the 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 more details.



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. Click 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:
  • 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.
The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Editor: Michael Sperry
Mailing address: BRWA, 271 Oak Street Uxbridge, MA 01569
Phone: 508-278-5200  Web:

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