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2001 News Releases


Water Quality Study and Public Outreach on Assabet River Kicks Off With $350,000 EPA Grant

Release Date: 11/13/2001
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, (617- 918-1014) Julia Blatt, Organization for the Assabet River (978-369-3956)

HUDSON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is awarding $350,000 for a project to investigate water quality on tributaries of the Assabet River and make the information publicly available with weekly updates on signboards, newspapers and websites.

The Assabet Watershed Streamwatch project will focus specifically on monitoring and evaluating fish habitat in the Assabet's tributaries which, in turn, will help educate the public on water quality, flow volume and other environmental issues in the river's watershed.

"The Assabet River is a tremendous resource for the area," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office, who announced the grant at a news conference today at Hudson Town Hall. "By putting river issues in terms people can understand – how healthy the river is for fish – this project is going to help residents and public officials understand the river and take action to improve it."

Partners in the project include the Assabet River Consortium (a consortium of the towns of Hudson, Maynard, Marlborough, Northborough, Shrewsbury and Westborough), the Organization for the Assabet River, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The $350,000 EPA grant will be augmented by contributions from project partners, bringing the total project budget to $432,000.

"We're pleased to be embarking on this project with the Assabet Consortium communities, " said Julia Blatt, director of the Organization for the Assabet River. "With development continuing to stress the Assabet watershed's water resources, it is critical that state and municipal water managers treat water as a finite resource. This project will help people understand that local aquatic wildlife can suffer or thrive as a result of our water consumption habits."

"The Assabet is home to a variety of species of aquatic wildlife. It is our responsibility as good neighbors to ensure them a clean and healthy habitat," added U.S. Representative Martin T. Meehan. "The Streamwatch project will provide us a better understanding of how wonderful a resource the Assabet River is, and how it needs to be preserved for future generations."

"The Assabet Consortium is delighted to be working with our partners, the Organization for the Assabet River, on this worthwhile project," said Paul Glazar, executive assistant for the town of Hudson and chairman of the Assabet Consortium. "We're all concerned about the quality of the Assabet River, it's a valuable natural resource for all of our towns."

The project will be implemented over two years – the first year focusing on Danforth Brook in Hudson, the second year focusing on a half-dozen additional streams in the watershed. The purpose of the project is to establish minimum flow and water quality requirements for native populations of fish in each of the tributaries.

Stream flow and water quality measurements will be updated weekly for each tributary. The information will then be publicized via a ‘Habitat Health' rating showing how healthy the stream is for native fish. The weekly data will be posted on signboards in the area, published in newspapers, and be available on the project web page. Additionally, expanded information will be available on the web site, including historical data, watershed maps, and explanations of the links between water quality and human actions. A series of workshops for citizens on water conservation will also be part of the project.

The Assabet River flows 31 miles through nine Massachusetts towns from Westborough to Concord. With over 170,000 people living in the watershed, it is a river heavily impacted by human activities. Because groundwater wells remove water from the watershed flow before it reaches the river, as much as 80 percent of the river's flow during the summer is comprised of effluent from the seven wastewater treatment plants along the river. Studies currently underway show that the river is oversaturated with nutrient pollution, which causes excess algae growth, decreased dissolved oxygen, and poor fish habitat. Rapidly increasing population in the watershed is expected to further stress the river.

The Assabet Watershed Streamwatch project is designed to bring attention to the river during a critical time for planning that combines wastewater treatment, water supply, and environmental protection issues. The six towns in the Assabet River Consortium are beginning to develop a comprehensive regional wastewater plan for future investments in water treatment. The state of Massachusetts is also developing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the river to control nutrient pollution. A TMDL sets the maximum amount of pollutants a river can absorb while still meeting water quality goals, and then allocates cuts to meet that load among the sources in the watershed.