Blackstone River Watershed Association
Blackstone River Watershed Association
In This Issue

Walking in a Winter Wonderland!



Report Card and Volunteers

Water Quality Degraded by Road Salt Application


Inward Reflection vs. Outward Bound


Healthier Deicing


BRWA Online
About the BRWA


Issue 52 February 2015


Walking in a Winter Wonderland!
Hikers on the BRWA's hike at Hassanamesit Woods learned about the
Muckamaug family's land, and the use of “stone wrapping” by later
land owners to open up stone walls for wagons and farm equipment.
Photo: Pieter Dejong
Hikers on the BRWA's hike at Hassanamesit Woods

Approximately 50 people joined the BRWA on Sunday, January 26th for a gorgeous and fascinating trek through Hassanamesit Woods in Grafton! We had blue skies with abundant sunshine that made the fresh (pre-blizzard) snow sparkle as we made our way through oak forests, over wooden bridges, across gurgling streams, past stone walls, up rocky ridges, and past a vernal pool before winding our way through pine woods to the finish. Afterwards, we refreshed ourselves with hot cider and cocoa, cookies and brownies.

These 200 acres drain to Misco brook, which empties into the West River before joining the Blackstone River. As we hiked through woods, fields, and wet areas, we were reminded about the need to protect land like this to ensure better water quality in the Blackstone.
Hassanamesit Woods includes two stream wetland systems
including this northern one that the trail crosses.
Photo: Joanne Holahan
Streams in Hassanamesit Woods

During the hike, we also took a journey through history. We talked about the prehistoric use of the area and the Hassanamisco clan of Nipmuc Indians that lived here prior to English settlements. We discussed the establishment of John Eliot's Hassanamesit Praying Village and the subsequent town of Grafton. We ended our time travel with the orchards and agricultural farms of more modern times, the residential development in the 1950s, and the ultimate foresight of Roger Robinson, the Trust for Public Lands, and the town of Grafton to keep this land as magnificent open space for us to enjoy during our winter hike!



World Wetlands Day is February 2 and commemorates the 1971 adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in Ramsar, Iran. The event is designed to raise awareness around the world of the importance and value of wetlands. This year's theme is "Wetlands for our Future" with a special focus on "agriculture and wetland sectors working together along with the water sector to secure the best possible outcome. " More information can be found at

Now that snow has finally arrived, opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tracking, and wildlife viewing, along with seasonal ranger-led programs can be found in Uxbridge at West Hill Dam {508- 278-2511} and River Bend Farm (508-278-7604).

2/7 Presentation on the Blackstone Canal by Dave Barber. Blackstone Historical Commission. 1 p.m. Blackstone Town Office, St. Paul Street.   info
2/18 Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting. 6:30pm - 8:30pm. Lincoln RI.   info
2/25,26 2015 Conference and EcoMarketplace of the Ecological Landscape Alliance. Springfield, MA. Includes workshop on "New Strategies for Water Conservation and Protection".   info
2/26 BRWA Board Meeting. 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 271 Oak St., Uxbridge.   info
2/28 Mass Association Conservation Commissions Annual Environmental Conference. College of the Holy Cross, Worcester.   info
3/9 Water Conservation: Landscape Design Strategies Webinar. Ecological Landscape Alliance. 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.   info
3/18 Blackstone River Watershed Council Monthly Meeting. 6:30pm - 8:30pm. Lincoln RI.   info
3/21 Blackstone River Coalition's Annual Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Summit. 9:15 a.m. - noon. Hopedale Community House, Hopedale. RSVP: Susan Thomas, or 508-839-9488.  
3/26 BRWA Board Meeting. 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 271 Oak St., Uxbridge.   info
3/28 Blackstone Canal Clean Up. 8 - 12 a.m. 15 St. Paul St., Blackstone, MA.  



Report Card and Volunteers
The Blackstone River Coalition (BRC), the umbrella organization that assists local watershed groups like the BRWA, is sponsoring its Annual Water Quality Monitoring Summit and Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast on Saturday, March 21st in Hopedale, Mass. Volunteer monitors from all 75 sites of the watershed-wide program are invited to the event being held from 9:15 a.m. to noon at the Hopedale Community House on Hope Street.

Volunteers will hear about the BRC's Report Card for the 2014 season in which grades of excellent to poor are assigned to monitoring sites throughout the Blackstone River watershed based on physical, chemical, and aesthetic data collected April through November of last year.

Richard Hartley, Fisheries Biologist with the Mass Division of Fish and Wildlife, will give the Keynote address on the status of fish in the watershed and the research currently underway - a timely topic as the BRC kicks off the next phase of its campaign for a Fishable/Swimmable Blackstone!

Anyone interested in the quality of the Blackstone River and its watershed should plan to attend. If you've ever thought of becoming a volunteer monitor, the Annual Summit is the place to begin! Please R.S.V.P. to Susan Thomas, or 508-839-9488.


Water Quality Degraded by Road Salt Application
Last December, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report summarizing its findings on the contamination of streams by chlorides used in pavement deicing. The study was conducted between 1960 and 2011 on streams in eight states and Washington, D.C. It found that, from 2006 to 2011, the EPA's standard for levels of chloride in freshwater systems (230 mg/l) was exceeded nearly one third of the year for 29% of the sampling sites. The study also documented that this toxicity is occurring much more frequently in the last decade compared with the previous one. Toxic levels were correlated with snowy urban areas where salt is regularly used to deice pavement on roadways, sidewalks, and parking lots. The majority of the contamination, however, is caused by municipal and state operations in northern states.

When surface waters are contaminated by road salt via snowmelt and stormwater runoff, freshwater organisms that are sensitive to chloride, including brook and rainbow trout, bluegill, American eel, caddisfly, and water fleas, are harmed or killed. This has additional implications throughout the aquatic food web when you consider all the fish, mammals, herps, insects, and birds that prey on these species.

Furthermore, the study suggests that the chloride used in deicing makes its way into groundwater systems. Not only does this degrade public water drinking supplies, it also contaminates surface waterways over the course of dryer months when groundwater gradually releases back into streams.

One of the main conclusions from the USGS study is that more needs to be done to identify or develop deicing materials that provide for public safety AND also protect the environmental integrity of our freshwater aquatic systems. The Massachusetts DOT reports that it used over 585,000 tons of road salt during the 2013-2014 winter. This winter, as the piles of snow around the Blackstone River Watershed build up, so should our commitment to finding a better way to keep our roadways clear.



Inward Reflection vs. Outward Bound
By Tara Neal, BRWA Board Member

I enjoy walking in the woods any time of year, but there is something special about a woodland walk on a crisp, sunny autumn day. For me, when the bright sunlight filters through the trees and reflects off the river, the whole world seems to be aglow in an array of red, orange and gold. Basking in that autumn glow for even a few moments never ceases to rejuvenate me. One afternoon this past October, after a busy stressful week, I took a walk at the Blackstone River and Canal State Heritage Park in Uxbridge hoping for some peaceful rejuvenation. I did, however, have my three kids along with me, ages 7, 5 and 3, so my expectations were pretty low.

Our path started at Plummer’s Landing, heading down the trail alongside the Blackstone River, and turning back at Goat Hill Lock. When we began, I asked the kids to admire the trees and name how many colors of leaves they could see. They played along with me for a moment before sprinting down the trail pretending to fight Creepers (a Minecraft reference). When I managed to get them to stop by a downed tree and speculate about what event might have led to it falling over the river, they preferred to speculate as to how far they could walk across said tree. When we reached an area where the river had breached the towpath and loose branches were gathering up, I pointed out that the river is not fixed, but always changing. The kids were more focused on the merits of the spot for a good fort. And at a bridge crossing, I suggested they stop for a moment and listen to the river; they preferred to race across the bridge as fast as they could.

There was little rejuvenation for me that day, but I did not mind. While our agendas may have been different – I was looking for a sense of peace and my kids were looking for adventure – we enjoyed the outdoors together. That is what mattered the most.



recycle symbol enveloping planet Earth Healthier Deicing
No one is immune to slipping on icy steps or walkways. Traditionally, rock salt (sodium chloride) has been used to provide safer passage. But as the article in Think Global explains, sodium chloride degrades local waterways and ground water.

Fortunately, there are alternatives for clearing away ice or at least providing better traction around your home or business. And as more research is conducted regarding road and highway use, it is hoped that additional products will hit the market that do not adversely affect the environment. Do not use clean cat litter, as some sources suggest, as it will eventually form a clayey mess that is difficult to clean up. Urea is also marketed but can degrade water supplies. Here are some better ideas to try:
  • Products containing magnesium chloride and sodium acetate
  • Beet juice mixed with brine
  • used coffee grounds
  • baking soda
  • sand (often provided free at town DPWs)
  • shoveling early to prevent ice build up
Green de-icing tips from:
Michael Bloch
Green Living
Green Living Tips is an online resource powered by renewable energy offering a wide variety of earth friendly tips, green guides, advice and environment related news to help consumers and business reduce costs, consumption and environmental impact.



“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Rachel Carson
Bash Bish Falls in the town of Mt. Washington is the highest waterfall in Massachusetts.

The Two Streams
By Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

  Behold the rocky wall
  That down its sloping sides
Pours the swift rain-drops, blending, as they fall,
  In rushing river-tides!

  Yon stream, whose sources run
  Turned by a pebble’s edge,
Is Athabasca, rolling toward the sun
  Through the cleft mountain-ledge.

  The slender rill had strayed,
  But for the slanting stone,
To evening’s ocean, with the tangled braid
  Of foam-flecked Oregon.

  So from the heights of Will
  Life’s parting stream descends,
And, as a moment turns its slender rill,
  Each widening torrent bends,—

  From the same cradle’s side,
  From the same mother’s knee,—
One to long darkness and the frozen tide,
  One to the Peaceful Sea!

The Poetry Foundation


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 residents on watershed protection strategies, and
  • Advocate to local residents, community leaders, non-profit partners, and state regulators to take actions that will help to ensure our waterways continue to provide healthy habitat and enjoyable recreational opportunities.
The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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

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