Westport River Watershed Alliance
River News
Our Mission: to restore, protect, celebrate, and sustain
the natural resources of the Westport River watershed
and its communities of Westport, Dartmouth, Fall River, Freetown,
Little Compton, Tiverton, and Adamsville.
February 2012
The Westport River Estuaries Report is HERE!


The Massachusetts Estuaries Project Report (MEP) for the Westport River Watershed will  be released shortly to the public and made available on the MEP website:  www.oceanscience.net/estuaries.

Additionally, on March 8, 2012, there will be a public presentation of the results of the report given by Dr. Brian Howes, MEP Project Director at UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST). The presentation will be held at the Alice Macomber School, 154 Gifford Road, Westport from 7-9 pm on Thursday, March 8.


This report is the result of a collaborative effort between many groups, principally UMass Dartmouth and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). This project was developed to help guide towns in their assessment and management of their coastal rivers and bays, which is required by the federal Clean Water Act. Many bays have pollution levels that are greater than what the bay can handle, and this may lead to poor water quality and loss of fish, shellfish and eelgrass. This decline in health has environmental, social, and economic impacts. For the Westport River, the pollutant of concern is nitrogen.


Preliminary results of the MEP study show that the Westport River is experiencing a level of nitrogen pollution that is threatening the health of the river and its ecosystem. This is important information because the River is a critical component of not only the Town of Westport, but of the region as well. As the River lives, so does the culture, economy, ecology, history, and community of Westport. Even if you are one who rarely sees or uses the Westport River, its value influences the Town's welfare by supplying beneficial "services" to the area. The waters, marshes, and wetlands of the River provide sediment and flood control, water filtration, tourism, commercial fishing, recreation, economic and education opportunities, ecological diversity, and esthetic value.


For most of its existence, the River has been able to deal with the amount of nitrogen entering its waters while experiencing few negative impacts. Unfortunately, that is no longer true. The loss of eelgrass from areas of the River where it was once healthy is a key indicator of declining water quality, as are the summer algal blooms and periodic fish kills.


This report provides a significant opportunity for the community to engage in helping to "clean up" the River. The work of the Westport River Watershed Alliance (WRWA) has provided the critical water quality data, much like a doctor's check-up report. However, the Town of Westport must determine the approaches and means for restoring the River to healthy conditions. The involvement of the community, through support, participation, interest, and awareness will go a long way towards achieving solutions to the pollution that will best benefit not only the River and its watershed, but the residents and visitors of this area as well.

Community Septic Loan Program Article at Town Meeting
The major reason for safe disposal of sewage is to prevent the spread of disease. If a septic system is properly sited, is working properly, and has been maintained regularly, it will effectively and efficiently remove disease-causing bacteria. Inadequately treated sewage from failing septic systems poses a significant threat to drinking water and human health because diseases and infections may be transferred to people and animals directly and immediately. Inadequately treated sewage from failing septic systems is the most frequently reported cause of groundwater contamination.  WRWA wants to help people fix their broken or failing septic systems, because a system with problems causes pollution in our waterways.  WRWA's input aided the Board of Health's decision to add an article to the 2012 Town Meeting Warrant for participation in a Community Septic Management Program. 


This program will enable our community to provide financial assistance to homeowners living in environmentally sensitive areas, who have failed septic systems. Through this program, the engineering and general construction costs associated with replacement or upgrade of a failed septic system can be provided as a low interest loan, to you, the homeowner. The Commonwealth provides funding for the Community Septic Management Program to the Community through a "State Revolving Fund" (SRF) loan. The participation of homeowners in areas identified as environmentally sensitive (to failed systems) is not mandatory. However, if the homeowner's septic system constitutes an imminent health hazard according to the local Board of Health, the homeowner can be given priority for assistance. Homeowner participation is encouraged because correctly operating septic systems are beneficial to the environment and the low interest rate offered by the Program helps homeowners comply with Title 5.  Homeowners may also qualify for a 40% state tax credit.  WRWA will be conducting workshops Community Septic Loan Program before town meeting May 1.

For more information visit the DEP website:

Merit Awards for Green Minded High School Seniors


We are pleased to offer two $500 scholarship opportunities for graduating seniors in the Westport River watershed: Fall River, Dartmouth, Freetown, Westport, Little Compton, and Tiverton.  One award, was made possible by the generosity of the late Margot C. Boote, who was active in educational and the environmental issues. The second award was initiated by Bill Heath Jr. in memory of his parents Ruth and Bill Heath.


The merit award applications are available by clicking here, or on our website www.westportwatershed.org or by calling the WRWA office at 508-636-3016. Local high schools also have applications on file at their guidance department office.


All applications are due into WRWA  (PO Box 3427, Westport, MA 02790) no later than April 1, 2012.


The Alliance has a proud record of environmental stewardship and has expressed  its commitment to carry on this tradition.  The merit awards offer an opportunity to honor students who have demonstrated a passion for learning about and protecting the watershed environment.

Kids Summer Program Schedule for 2012


The Westport River Watershed Alliance is offering fun, hands on summer science programs for ages 3-16.  Participants discover marine life, create eco-crafts, learn about coastal habitats and enjoy games on the beach. 


Programs range from an hour long session for the youngest explorer, to trips on WRWA's skiff to learn about the Westport River or kayaking/paddle boarding for our more advanced participants.  Our summer programs offer children the opportunity to learn science, make friendships and build self-confidence, all while having fun in a relaxed, safe environment.


Programs fill up quickly, so don't miss out. For more information and to register visit our website:

Contact Your Massachusetts Senator about the Safer Alternatives Bill


In Massachusetts those seeking to protect themselves and their families from toxic chemicals linked to cancer, asthma, reproductive disorders, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, learning disabilities and more have been waiting (and advocating) for a long time for passage of a law to help with that task.  The Safer Alternatives Bill, which will require companies using toxic chemicals to use safer alternatives when they're available is in its 9th year before the state legislature.

This week that bill has cleared the first hurdle in its journey towards becoming a law in the 2011-2012 legislative session: the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture released the bill on Tuesday.


Follow the link below to let your legislators know you what you think about this Bill.


Upcoming Events 


WRWA Annual Meeting

Saturday, March 17 ,2012  

1 p.m. 

Westport Grange Hall 
1132 Main Road, Westport, MA


Speaker will be:

Nicholas J. Ashbolt, Ph.D. Senior Research Microbiologist
National Exposure Research Laboratory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati, OH, USA


Dr. Nick Ashbolt has graciously agreed to speak at our Annual Meeting this coming Saint Patrick's day. He is one of the most forward thinking experts in waste-water of our time. Dr. Ashbolt would most likely object to our using "waste" in front of water because, as he says, there is no "waste". There are only poorly used natural resources that society must harness. "It's all about money, residuals and resource recovery." That's why we invited him to speak.


To put this in context, Westport recently received the draft Massachusetts Estuary Program (MEP) report from the SMAST program at UMass, Dartmouth. The MEP is a set of criteria we need to meet to clean up our waters. There are old, expensive ways and there are simpler, inexpensive ways to do this. Dr. Ashbolt will talk about these simpler methods and why we should use them for the good of ourselves, our children and the planet.



Don't miss this unique opportunity to learn about the new ways to use our waste... strike that, our resources. Reserve a spot now by calling WRWA 508-636-3016.


Dr Ashbolt has stated that water conservation measures could 'easily' reduce household demand in developed countries by 70 per cent. He cited examples of water-saving devices included dry composting toilets with urine-diversion systems for capture of fertilizer nutrients and compost garden mulch and diverted yellow-water from communities providing nutrients for local agriculture. Alternatively, toilet and food residuals could be transported via a vacuum/pressure (blackwater-only) sewer, maximizing energy recovery potential via anaerobic digestion (to methane then electricity) with residuals providing a rich fertilizer. 'These techniques can be used safely, even in fairly dense urban settings,' said Dr. Ashbolt.

Westport Estuaries Report - Public Meeting

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Alice Macomber School,

154 Gifford Road, Westport

7-9 pm


Westport River Watershed Alliance Annual Meeting

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Westport Grange Hall

1132 Main Road, Westport

1-3 pm


Community Canidates Night

Tuesday, April 3 ,2012  

Westport High School
19 Main Road, Westport, MA
7 pm 


Earth Day Beach Cleanups

Saturday, April  21,2012  

10 a.m.

Cherry and Webb/Town Beach, Westport, MA

Volunteers wanted!


River Day

Saturday, June 9 ,2012  

Head of Westport Landing


WRWA Summer Gala Fundraiser 

Saturday, August 11 ,2012  

Find Westport River Watershed Alliance on Facebook!
Westport River Watershed Alliance
1151 Main Road
Westport, Massachusetts 02790

WRWA Logo 

WRWA's mission is to restore, protect, celebrate, and sustain the natural resources of the Westport River and its watershed which encompasses six towns:  Dartmouth, Fall River, Freetown, and Westport in Massachusetts, and Little Compton and Tiverton in Rhode Island.  WRWA accomplishes its goal of protecting the watershed through education, research, advocacy, and community outreach.