Water Quality Monitoring Program

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) initiative. Together we have recently completed a 15-year testing program. Nearly 90 volunteers gather water samples at 70 sites in the main stem and tributaries of the river in RI and MA on a fixed schedule from April to November. The samples are turned in at designated locations in the two states and lab tested according to pre-established criteria, gathering significant data on such matters as bacteria and nutrient levels in the water. The data can then be 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.

In 2018, with a critical mass of information now in hand, the Water Quality Monitoring program added Phase II of the initiative. BRC’s WQM program director, Susan Thomas, created town specific mailings for each of the towns in the watershed giving town authorities precise information on problem areas in their own communities.

The 2018 report card is scheduled to be released on March 30 at the Blackstone Heritage Corridor’s new Visitors Center in Worcester. If you wish to participate in this program, please send an email to Alice Clemente at

Historic Cemetery Preservation – One Member’s Passion

Elder Ballou Cemetery

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 that we do our part to help sustain the graves and the history of the men and women who came before us and who left us a rich legacy that we call our past.

As good stewards, we can assure you that every dollar we spend, including our own will continue to go towards preserving and protecting this historic treasure for future generations.


IT’S THE LIFE IN YOUR YEARS.” President Lincoln

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 “ever” 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.” Unlike Sullivan who was buried at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, many of Sullivan’s relatives including his father Hiram Ballou are buried at the Elder Ballou Cemetery.

With much passion and respect, we restored this cemetery to its rightful place. Work still remains to maintain this rich heritage.

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.

Water chestnut is a rooted submerged aquatic plant that quickly forms dense floating mats and out competes native plant communities. 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.

Partnering with Youth in Our Community

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 with river preservation and education programs. BRWC members and science teachers get students involved with active programs such as Water Quality monitoring. Students get a hands-on experience on the river and then continue in the classroom for a real-world application of what they learned.