Tools to Keep Water Healthy

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announces the launch of a new Massachusetts Clean Water Tool Kit website, which serves as the state’s primary public education resource related to nonpoint source pollution.


The Toolkit, developed for MassDEP by Geosyntec Consultants, includes sections focused on the major categories of nonpoint source pollution, 127 fact sheets on best management practices to reduce pollution, and a collection of “Interactive Scenarios” based on Massachusetts landscapes.

The Interactive Scenarios allow users to explore ways to reduce pollution and improve water quality in a variety of highly detailed landscapes that are typical in Massachusetts, including residential, agricultural, urban, roads, construction, and shoreline restoration.

To view the Clean Water Toolkit, go to


Tenth Annual Earth Day Celebration in Townsend MA

earth-day-2014Bring your family & friends on April 25, 10 am – 3 pm. for the Earth Day Celebration: “Water, Water, Everywhere?” at the Townsend Common, intersection of Route 119 & Route 13.

There will be plenty to do.  Nearly 100 vendors, crafters, businesses and non-profit groups will be at the festival – including the MA Watershed Coalition that will offer information about keeping water clean and healthy.

4-H Camp Middlesex will have food for sale and children’s games will be run by the NMRHS Relay for Life Committee.  Continuous entertainment including live music will be at the Townsend Common gazebo.

Items you can bring to Earth Day include returnable bottles and cans for Boy Scout Troop 10; outdoor plants for the free plant swap; ride-able, gently used bikes for Friends of Pepperell Recreation; and empty wine bottles for Blackmoon-Recycled Art.

Have boxes of files to be shredded?   Sordano Real Estate has contracted with a paper shredding company and files can be shredded for free in minutes. Also, there will be a donated textiles competition among schools and people from surrounding towns can participate. The good textiles will be donated to TEO and the not so good to Bay State Textiles for recycling.

Rain Date is Sunday April 26th, noon-4 pm.  If the ground is still too wet, an alternate location on pavement will be arranged. (If needed, there will be a sign posted on the Townsend Common with the alternate location.)

Soak Up The Rain

With the return of spring, we enjoy getting outside and thinking about home improvements. Yardwork and landscaping can also make a difference in keeping streams and lakes healthy.

Austin St raingarden[1]EPA New England has a helpful website that shows how to sustain local waters and improve your yard.  This Soak Up the Rain site provides free guidance about rain gardens, tree planting, rain barrels, porous paving and other ways to keep runoff from harming brooks and ponds. Home landscaping can use plants and soil to prevent pollution, reduce flooding and recharge groundwater.  These “green practices” will enhance the neighborhood, as well as attract birds, butterflies and fauna you can enjoy watching.

The Soak up the Rain website also has practical ideas for town officials, youth groups, businesses and lake associations that are looking to prevent or fix stormwater problems.  There are links for how-to guides, videos, mobile phone apps, and EPA’s Stormwater Calculator. The Calculator is a desktop tool that estimates runoff from a specific site using local soil conditions, topography, and rainfall records.  Home builders, landscape services, homeowners and community groups can apply this tool to consider low impact practices that protect streams and ecosystems. For more information, visit the website at

Creating More Beautiful and Healthier Neighborhoods with Rain Gardens

RunoffRemedies intro blog 120413While melting snow and spring rains will likely keep us out of our gardens for a few more weeks, now is the time to do some summertime dreaming and planning. Many people will be doing just that at the Boston Flower Show this week. Massachusetts Watershed Coalition will be sharing info about rain gardens at the EPA booth at the Flower Show on Saturday and Sunday, March 14th and 15th.

Every time it rains or snow melts away, the runoff from hard surfaces picks up and carries dirt, bacteria, fertilizers, pesticides, and debris, as well as oil and other fluids that drip from cars. Our roadways are really intermittent streams and almost all eventually empty into brooks and ponds without treatment. The increased nutrients and bacteria result in more weeds in our ponds, less fish habitat in our streams, and, increasingly, in toxic algae blooms.

Small actions that put rain in the ground quickly or disconnect clean rain from dirty streets provide big benefits. By implementing some simple and low-cost methods, homeowners and businesses can prevent pollution and reduce flooding. With a rain garden as part of your landscape, you’ll attract wildlife and beautify your neighborhood while helping prevent pollution and improve stream life.

rain garden church

Rain gardens are designed to retain storm water for a few hours, allowing it to seep into the ground. This groundwater replenishes waterways between rain events and sustains the health of stream life. Plants and soils in the rain garden help cleanse storm water and remove nutrients that can harm water quality. The plantings attract birds and beneficial insects like butterflies, bees, and dragonflies. Rain gardens make yards more attractive and form mini-ecosystems you will enjoy watching.

Planted with shrubs and perennials, rain garden construction is easy and upkeep is simple and inexpensive. If you do the design, digging, and collect seeds or plants from other people with gardens, the cost will be minimal. Or you can hire a professional landscaper. Depending on the types of plants and accessories you want, costs can range from $2-$5 per square foot for a homeowner installed garden to $8 – $12 or more per square foot for a professionally installed garden.

Rain Garden picture taken from the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition Rain Garden Guide

Rain Garden picture taken from the Massachusetts Watershed Coalition Rain Garden Guide

If you are at the Flower Show this weekend, stop by the EPA booth to pick up a copy of our Rain Garden Pocket Guide. You can also download the free Rain Garden Pocket Guide from the The Massachusetts Watershed Coalition at:

Tree systems filter road runoff

???????????????????????????????Tree filter systems in Leominster are now cleansing stormwater from City streets.  Each system has a concrete frame that is open on three sides and the bottom.  The open bottom design does not restrict root growth and the porous filter media prevents “drowning” of the tree roots.  A clean-out sump captures sediment and debris as stormwater enters the system to reduce buildup on the filter media surface.

Under the three feet of filter media is two feet of stone that allows the filtered stormwater to soak into adjacent soils. During very heavy rains, a horizontal perforated pipe conveys this filtered water to the storm sewer in order to prevent filter system overflows.

The top of the structure is open to allow tree growth and cleanout of the collection sump and surface of the filter media.   The removable grate on top of the filter system has a small opening for the tree trunk.  This fiberglass grating can be cut with a hand saw to enlarge the opening as the tree grows.

Routine maintenance includes cleanout of the sump and surface media bed as well as tree inspection, which will help keep the system filtering road runoff for many years.

Standard tree filter systems can treat up to 1/2 acre or more of paved road, and can be configured to work at most sites.  Tree filters can be combined with conventional stormwater structures and infiltration chambers, or simply as a “stand-alone” system.  For more details, visit

“Stormwater Solutions in Action” is available

Over the past year, the MA Watershed Coalition compiled information on stormwater reduction throughout the state. The initial inventory of Stormwater Solutions in Action is posted on MWC’s website – please use the following link to view or download this report and map

Stormwater Solutions in Action (SSIA) lists stormwater practices used by cities and towns across Massachusetts.  MWC encourages everyone – homeowners, businesses, community groups, schools and municipalities – to consider similar runoff remedies.

This report identifies over 200 projects that cleanse nearly 900 million gallons of polluted runoff each year. The projects listed are a small fraction of what is being done state-wide, with many towns not yet represented.   MWC will update the inventory later this year with more examples of local stormwater solutions. We ask readers to help share and expand the inventory report.

The SSIA inventory includes a project table that is organized alphabetically by major watershed and the towns within them.  Most of Massachusetts’ major watersheds are represented – some watersheds have many projects listed and some have just a few.  This project table is followed by a section with brief remarks about Best Management Practices (BMPs), as well as links to stormwater guides, a list of watershed organizations and more.

street runoff to CBAbout Stormwater: Stormwater runoff from roads, parking lots, homes and businesses is the biggest threat to clean water. One acre of paving generates a million gallons of runoff per year that washes dirt, fertilizers, oil, bacteria and other contaminants into street drains that dump into brooks and ponds.

There are many BMPs for polluted runoff that help improve hydrologic conditions by recharging groundwater and by reducing frequent flooding that  damages local streams and lakes. Depending on a project’s size, several BMPs may be used in forming a “treatment train” to maximize effectiveness.

For more information about stormwater problems and solutions, please visit the MWC website

Grow a Greener Community

Communities are faced with damages to drinking water supplies, lakes, rivers and streams caused by stormwater runoff.  When it rains, the “first flush” of runoff from roads, driveways, sidewalks, lawns and parking lots, carries pollutants that harm community uses of water and poison aquatic life. Oil, grease, heavy metals, lawn chemicals, sand and salt are washed into underground pipe systems that pour pollutants directly into water bodies.

FortG3 L. George edhunately, low impact approaches can be used to treat stormwater near its source. Methods such as rain gardens, vegetated buffers and tree box filters capture stormwater and infiltrate it into the soil where the water is detained and cleansed.

The Massachusetts Watershed Coalition has created A Community Guide to Growing Greener, a set of guidelines for designers, developers and community boards. It will help local builders, businesses and community residents to use effective, low-cost measures to prevent runoff from harming water supplies and habitats. This guidance will also help to attract development that can protect the Town’s character and its valuable natural resources.

The Guide describes design and construction practices for stormwater management, erosion and sedimentation control, landscape design and site planning. This Guide will also be useful to communities required to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Phase II stormwater regulations.

Community boards can use the Guide in the development and redevelopment process. Because many of these practices are less costly to install than traditional large-pipe stormwater systems, developers find them attractive to use. Thus municipalities can reduce stormwater pollution at little cost to the community.