In this section: 

Water Quality Monitoring

Historic Cemetery Preservation

Invasive plants removal

Partnering with schools in our community


Water Quality Monitoring Program (WQM) Nick Wentzell working with volunteers to test water quality samples at BRWC/FOB headquartersWater Quality Monitoring (WQM)

BRWC/FOB is one of the three core supporters (Blackstone River Headwaters Coalition, Blackstone River Watershed Association, and Blackstone River Watershed Council/Friends of the Blackstone) of the Blackstone River Coalition’s bi-state Water Quality Monitoring (WQM) Program.

Completion of the 15-year testing program

During the 15-year period, nearly 90 volunteers gathered water samples at 70 sites in the main stem and tributaries of the river in RI and MA. The volunteers worked on a fixed schedule beginning in April and running through November. The samples were turned in at designated locations in the two states and lab tested according to pre-established criteria. Significant data was gathered on bacteria and nutrient levels in the water. The data was then analyzed to determine the over-all health of the watershed, including the impacts of these bacterial and nutrient loads on aquatic plant and fish species. Read Valley Breeze article, Blackstone River is healthier, watershed advocates report

In 2018, with a critical mass of information in hand, the WQM Program added Phase II of the initiative. BRC’s Watershed-wide Program Coordinator, Susan Thomas, created town specific mailings in the form of a report card for each of the towns in the watershed giving town authorities precise information on problem areas in their own communities. On March 30, the 2018 report card was released. Click here to read the Report Card for 2018 or for prior dates, please visit The Blackstone River Coalition website. If you wish to participate in the WQM Program as a water quality tester at our facility or help gather samples, please send an email to or complete our Volunteer form.

WQM in 2020

BRWC/FOB board member, Nick Wentzell, is the RI Team Field Coordinator for the WQM program with a total of 75 testing sites. The testing dates for 2020 are listed on our Events page. You can help defray the cost of testing supplies. Please visit our DONATE page.  Thank you.

Volunteers conduct WQM testing at our headquarters:

Nick Wentzell and volunteers testing water samples at BRWC/FOB facility






Blackstone Valley Cemetery Network

Historic Cemetery Preservation – One Member’s passion becomes our passion

BRWC/FOB continues to care for this historic cemetery. Board member Keith Hainley and volunteer extraordinaire Paul Swack worked on Elder Ballou Cemetery for roughly 250 hours in 2019.  “It’s the type of work that goes a lot easier with two people.” said Keith.  “We spent May and early June removing the dense covering of leaves.”. In addition, they also removed the deep thatch that had built up. The two hauled away 6 pickup truckloads of leaves just along the road.

Here, as with much of the work we do, anyone is welcome. If you have just a couple of hours or can give a full day, Keith could use your help. Between mowing, raking and hauling the leaves, your help is always appreciated. Contact It was the mission of the BRWC/FOB and its volunteers to see the restoration and preservation of this historic cemetery. With annual maintenance and gravestone repairs, we have reversed years of vandalism and neglect. It is the responsibility of all of us that we do our part, to sustain the graves and the history of the men and women who came before us who left us such a rich legacy.

As good stewards, we will do our best to continue preserving and protecting this historic treasure for future generations. With much passion and respect, we continue to restore this cemetery to its rightful place. Work still remains to maintain this rich heritage.

Before BRWC/FOB cleanup…                      After…

Elder Ballou Cemetery before BRWC/FOB cleanup Elder Ballou Cemetery after BRWC/FOB cleanup completed

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”

President Lincoln

About the Ballou Family

The Ballou Family has a long and rich history in the Blackstone Valley. Eliza Ballou Garfield was the daughter of James Ballou, wife of our 20th US President James A. Garfield. Sullivan Ballou, a Major of the 2nd Regiment of Rhode Island Volunteers Infantry, is known primarily for writing the most stirring war time love letter to his wife Sarah one week before he died at the Battle of Bull Run in the Civil War. It was featured prominently in Ken Burns’ 1990 PBS television series, The Civil War. Sullivan is buried at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. Many of Sullivan’s relatives, including his father Hiram Ballou, are buried at Elder Ballou Cemetery.

Invasive Plants Removal

The Blackstone River and its watershed is not without its share of invasive plants. Most recently, it was discovered that water chestnut had taken a firm hold in the Valley Falls marsh. According to DEM, it is the biggest problem area in the State. Its decay can deplete oxygen levels, leading to fish kills.

Knotweed is another invasive plant, which can grow from three to 15 feet tall, has bamboo-like stems and is sometimes called Japanese bamboo. As with many invasive plants, knotweed thrives in disturbed areas. Once established it can spread rapidly, creating monoculture stands that threaten native plant communities.

Removal of Knotweed, an invasive plant Keith Hainley with knotweed, an invasive plant, removed from a Cumberland location

Partnering with Schools in Our Community

OCYL students canoeing on the Blackstone River

OCYL: The Mayor’s Office of Children, Youth and Learning

OCYL participated in a learning adventure with BRWC/FOB by getting out on the river. BRWC/FOB offers these types of programs to youth in the community providing canoes, paddles, life jackets, instruction and fun! The instructors had as much fun as the students.

River Rat Program

The BRWC/FOB River Rat Program is an ongoing effort to engage students and teachers from local schools about river preservation and stewardship programs. Recipe: get students to the river, mix with basics about paddling and safety, add boats to paddle, take photos, be sure ‘fun’ is the biggest ingredient and the result is pure enjoyment.

Blackstone River Watershed Council's River Rat Program volunteers