Blackstone River Watershed Association
FROM THE EDITOR
Hello fellow watershed supporters! Although this is my first issue
as newsletter editor, I have been a part of the BRWA community since
2011 as its Program Assistant. During this time, I have been energized
by all the people I have seen engaged in a wide range of activities
directed at the conservation of the Blackstone River and its watershed.
From cleanups, winter hikes, volunteer water quality monitoring, and
classroom outreach to plant-pull parties, citizen workshops, river races,
I strongly believe that the foundation to any successful advocacy
campaign is improving public awareness and education. That is
where the monthly BRWA enewsletter comes in. It tells you the
who-what-where-when-why-and-how of the Blackstone River watershed.
The most important of these is “how”—as in how YOU can be a part of
the BRWA’s mission to engage, educate, and advocate to improve water
quality in the Blackstone River watershed. One thing that you can do
today is visit our fabulous new website (see article below)!
It’s chock-full of information and opportunities for you.
Keep in mind, though, that
both the BRWA’s website and enewsletter are intended as a dialogue
between the BRWA and the larger community. We need to hear about
your experiences, your concerns, and your ideas for a healthy watershed.
I want to close with a sincere “Thank You” to Mike Sperry for his tireless
work as both the creator and outgoing editor of the BRWA eNewsletter,
and for spearheading our new website design process.
Annual Winter Hike at Purgatory a Big Hit
Despite the chilly temps, 50 people, including cub scouts from Douglas, turned out
Saturday January 26th for an invigorating, two-hour guided hike through the woods of
Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton. Susan Thomas, BRWA Project Assistant and
Mass Audubon Natural History Guide, explained the history of the reservation before
leading the adventuresome hikers along Charley’s Loop where they learned about the
plants and wildlife living there ranging from chestnut oaks and elephant-ear lichen, to red
foxes and pileated woodpeckers.
The crowd experienced the classic smell of the wintergreen plant and played
detective with animal tracks seen in the snow. A highlight of the outing were the frozen
cascades at Little Purgatory where Susan discussed glacial potholes and encouraged the
hikers to return in the summer to experience the emerald beauty of this spot on a hot
summer day. On the return trip, the hikers paralleled the Chasm and learned about past
and current theories of its geologic formation.
Examples of the Chasm’s rocks and minerals were on display back at the visitor
center along with hot drinks and cookies. The crowd expressed a lot of enthusiasm for the
outing and many asked about future hikes. Ranger Chuck Arning, with the National Park
Service, will be leading our next event on March 23rd at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge.
More details can be found at our program calendar below.
New Website Unveiled
The BRWA has a new website and we’re pretty excited! With a new look and new
features, we are offering a valuable resource for anyone seeking to learn about, improve,
and/or simply enjoy the Blackstone watershed. Visitors to the new website will find more
information about our mission, programs, and events. You will also discover more about
the watershed, the challenges it faces, and the many ways you can get involved while also
having fun! In the near future, we will add additional features designed especially for kids
and educators. Please visit us at www.thebrwa.org
and take some time to explore the new improved design and useful features.
And if you have any comments or suggestions on the design or content
of the BRWA’s website, please email Mike at email@example.com.
Thanks for looking!
March Hike to Be Offered at River Bend Farm
The BRWA is excited to announce that Ranger Chuck Arning of the National Park
Service will be leading a hike for the public at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge on Saturday,
March 23 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. The hike, titled "A Changed Landscape - Indians, Irish &
Immigrants, So How Does Climate Change Fit In? - A Walk through the Blackstone River &
Canal Heritage State Park", promises to be both informative and scenic. More information
will be posted on our website in the near future. Please RSVP to
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
February is National Grapefruit Month
According to Ocean Spray,
“Naturally loaded with the antioxidant Vitamin C, grapefruit juice helps
boost the immune system during these winter months when colds and
flu are at their peak.” So grab a grapefruit on your way to one of these
Trout Unlimited Northern RI meeting 6:30-8:30 p.m. One Depot Square, Woonsocket
Blackstone River Coalition’s Blackstone Water Quality
Summit and Eco-Machine Exploration 9:30 a.m.-noon Brigham Hill Community Barn,
37 Wheeler Road, N. Grafton, MA.
Info from Donna Williams firstname.lastname@example.org
Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting
6:30-8:30 p.m. Amica Insurance Building 100 Amica Way, Lincoln, R.I.
BRWA Board Meeting NEW DAY & TIME 6:45 p.m. 271 Oak St., Uxbridge, MA.
Protecting Important Habitat in Worcester County with the Community Preservation Act
6:00-8:30 p.m. Alternatives Unlimited, Northbridge, MA.
Cape Cod Natural History Conference
Contact Melissa Lowe at email@example.com
or at 508-349-2615 x107
BRC Strategic Planning Session Blackstone Library,
86 Main St. Blackstone, MA.
Contact Peter Coffin for more info:
BCC Workday. 9 a.m. at Plummer’s Landing, Church St.
Info from Dave Barber 508-478-4918
Guided Hike by Ranger Chuck Arning 1-2:30 p.m.
at River Bend Farm, Uxbridge, MA.
Massachusetts Land Conservation Conference 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Worcester Technical High School, Worcester, MA.
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL
Blackstone Strategic Planning
Several members of the BRWA attended the first of two Blackstone Strategic
Planning Sessions held in Woonsocket on Saturday, February 2nd. The session was
organized by the Blackstone River Coalition (BRC) and facilitated by Meg Kerr of the
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program. The goal of these meetings is to identify and prioritize
actions that the BRC and member groups can take to restore the river and its watershed.
Dona Neely, Mike Sperry, and Susan Thomas all shared ideas during the brainstorming
session, which included discussion on three planning categories: (1) water quality
improvement and protection, (2) water quantity and stream flow protection, and (3)
habitat improvement and protection. The participants will meet next on March 16 at the
Blackstone Public Library. Contact the BRC at
firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information about the process.
Blackstone Water Quality
Summit and Eco-Machine Exploration
The Blackstone River Coalition's annual Water Quality Summit will take place on
Saturday, February 16, 9:30 - noon, at the Brigham Hill Community Barn, 37 Wheeler
Road, N. Grafton, MA, and the public is invited. The highlight of the Summit will be a
presentation and tour of the Fisherville Eco-Machine and Canal Restorer, an
innovative system to remove hydrocarbons and nutrients from the Blackstone River and
Canal, located on Main Street in South Grafton, MA.
John Todd,Ph.D., of John Todd Ecological Design, Woods Hole, MA, designer of The
Eco-Machine and Canal Restorer, will explain how it pumps contaminated water from the
Blackstone Canal, filters it through a series of tanks with enzyme-generating mushrooms
and bacteria-producing aquatic plants and animals, and releases that “inoculated” water
back into the canal to clean the water downstream. The presentation will take place at the
Community Barn, and then participants will drive to the Eco-Machine site in South Grafton. Then Dr.
Todd will conduct a tour of this unique system of natural systems to improve water
quality in the Blackstone River and beyond.
In addition to this special presentation the 2012 Blackstone Watershed Water
Quality Report Card will be unveiled and the volunteer water quality monitors will be
celebrated. Susan Thomas, with the BRWA, is the new Coordinator for the BRC’s
monitoring program previously run by Tammy Gilpatrick, also of the BRWA. Please
contact Donna Williams at
email@example.com if you plan to attend the Summit.
Uxbridge Asphalt Plant Contested
Due to a series of paperwork oversights, a bituminous asphalt manufacturing plant
was approved in Uxbridge by the town’s Planning Board on January 23. Back in 1995, the
town voted to prohibit zoning for this type of operation. However, the amendment was
never officially recorded, and a later recodification in 2008 essentially repealed the 1995
decision because of the filing error. As a result, Evergreen Development has been able to
propose establishing a plant on Quaker Highway close to the Blackstone River.
Asphalt manufacturing uses petroleum compounds in the mixing process and can
contaminate ground water via chemical spills or leaks. This contamination can travel to
nearby waterways — in the case of the proposed Evergreen plant, it is the Blackstone River that is at risk.
Stormwater, if not managed properly, can also pick up contaminants and transport them
to the river. Opponents plan to appeal the Planning Board’s ruling.
Railroad Expansion Plans Spark Objection in Grafton
The Grafton and Upton Railroad has stirred up controversy in Grafton by moving
forward with plans to establish a propane transfer station in town. At odds is whether the
Railroad and its activities are under the jurisdiction of local laws and regulations, as the
Town of Grafton claims, or if it is instead pre-empted from local oversight because it is
covered by Federal regulation through the Interstate Commerce Act.
The Railroad, owned by Jon Delli Priscoli, established regular operations only within
the last few years and has been clearing land along its right-of-way for over a year,
prompting concerns by citizens. The facility is located within a residential area, as well as
a water supply protection overlay district for Grafton. It is near Pratts Pond, which feeds
into Bummit Brook, a tributary of the Blackstone River. The Brook is a site for the
Blackstone River Coalition’s volunteer water quality monitoring program.
In December, 2012, the Mass Department of Environmental Protection found
several violations at the site including the need for erosion control measures to keep soil
runoff from entering the pond, brook, and surrounding wetlands. Filling and grading of
wetlands had also taken place. These violations have not been fully resolved.
The Town’s Board of Selectmen was kept in the dark of Priscoli’s plans to develop a
transfer station until they were informed in late December, only two days before several
80,000-gallon propane tanks were scheduled to be moved through town to the project
site. The Town obtained a cease and desist order through the Worcester Superior Court
and the case moved up to the U.S. District Court. Legal arguments were made during
January, after which the judge directed both parties to meet for mediation. Closing
arguments are set for February 11, 2013.
Dam Bill Passed
January 10, Governor Patrick signed into law a bill authorizing $17
million for the repair or removal of unsafe or abandoned dams. As one
component of the bill, the Department of Conservation and Recreation
will create a report for the ~3,000 dams in existence across
Massachusetts. This report will highlight which ones are in a state of
disrepair and pose a significant hazard to public safety or property.
In addition to repairing dams, communities will be able to use a
revolving loan fund to remove dams where that action is deemed
appropriate for safety or ecological reasons. From a conservation
perspective, dam removal can restore natural flow to waterways and
their associated aquatic life. In western Mass, the Briggsville Dam on
the North Hoosic River was removed in 2010 and that action “restored
continuity to more than 30 miles of headwater streams and trout
habitat” (Steve LeBlanc, A.P. 12/31/2012). This is the type of
ecological restoration that supporters of the bill hope to see across
many watersheds in Massachusetts.
The Blackstone River has the highest density of dams of any river in the country due
to its role in the American Industrial Revolution. Much of its hydrological integrity and
related function has been eliminated or compromised in sections where dams exist. The
Millbury Dam, operated by Mass Electric, is one such dam slated for removal by the State.
The goals of this project include restoring fish passage, general aquatic habitat, and
hydrology to surrounding natural areas.
SPOTLIGHT ON SCIENCE
The Mink (Mustela vision)
This small fur-bearing mammal, weighing two to five pounds and
belonging to the weasel family, ranges throughout Massachusetts's
waterways. Coniferous woods often border the ponds and streams
mink inhabit. This predator is adapted to an aquatic life with its
webbed toes and oily fur. As a nocturnal hunter, it consumes muskrats,
mice, voles, rabbits, birds, crayfish, and frogs. A litter of six to seven kits
is born in late May and remains with the mother until the fall when the
offspring seek their own territories. The mink makes its home in the
bank of a pond or stream and requires clean water because it is a top
predator that will accumulate any toxins found in its prey.
Many children enjoy exploring a river but don’t necessarily
understand how it was formed in the first place. This
by school book publisher McGraw Hill gives a short but clear explanation of the process.
Check it out with your children and see what questions it sparks!
QUESTION OF THE MONTH
What emotion do you experience when you are by a
We want to hear from you! Email us at
“Question of the Month” in the subject header. Check back next month
to see readers’ responses.
Rather than throwing away greeting cards, whether they be holiday, birthday, or
thank-you cards, consider using
offered by the St. Jude’s Ranch that makes new cards from old.
“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Rachel Carson
The purpose of this segment of the BRWA’s monthly eNewsletter is to
encourage us all to step back from the news, the meetings, the
campaigns, the stewardship ... the business of environmental advocates,
and to immerse ourselves, if even for a moment, in the
beauty that we are striving so hard to save—the world around us.
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: Susan Thomas 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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