Here's what's happening this month
River News - November, 2017
A Walk In The Woods

Saturday, November 4th was a lovely day for a hike, and 20 supporters joined WRWA and Green Futures for a trek to Boiling Spring in the woods of the Bioreserve.  The pristine spring is the source of one of the northernmost tributaries of the Westport River.  The natural conservation land helps keep the water clean as it makes its way to the Copicut Reservoir, Forge Pond, and eventually to the Head of Westport.

Limiting development along our waterways allows nature - undisturbed soils and vegetation - to filter impurities from the water, resulting in a healthier river.  The 15,000 acre Bioreserve is a good example of this.  Visit this link for more information about the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve.


Dear Alliance Members and Friends: 
Deborah Weaver, Executive Director
Exactly three years ago the Alliance asked me to become Executive Director. Ever since I have been honored to work with the Board, staff and volunteers - amazing people committed to the environment and health of our river. Our award-winning science and education programs are the Alliance's backbone, and we've added many new outreach activities including walks, talks, beach clean ups and electronics recycling. Our organization has launched a "leaders' lunch," at which local non-profit leaders gather for a bite to eat and informal conversations that often lead to collaboration. We help Town officials by writing grants and by lending assistance to complete required DEP and EPA reports.

When beginning work at the WRWA in January 2015, I imagined that raising money for the River Center would be the hardest aspect of that project. As it turns out, securing needed permits has been the most grueling, exacting and protracted process. But we'll soon be "under construction." In a few weeks we'll drill a well. The building permit will come shortly thereafter. Our vision of a new headquarters is finally going to become reality, thanks to generous funding agencies, in particular the Town of Westport Community Preservation Committee and the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund.

I am continually overwhelmed by the generosity of our Board and other members whose inspired philanthropy has propelled us toward our fundraising goals.

 Challenge Grant - Donations Doubled

At the end of October a board member offered to contribute $100,000 for River Center support - IF we are able to raise an equal amount by December 15th. I'm happy to say we're half way to that goal.
SO . . . if you've been thinking about contributing to the River Center Project, now is the time. Your gift will be doubled!

You'll soon receive our appeal for contributions to the WRWA Annual Fund, a vital element of our operating support. This funding keeps our doors open and our boat afloat-literally!  Your support of the Alliance is vital; we cannot thank you enough for your ongoing generosity.

We wish you a happy holiday season and a prosperous, healthy 2018. We hope you'll join us on Dec 7 from 4-6pm as we celebrate the holidays for the final time at our Main Road office. I will be ecstatic to welcome you at our 2018 Holiday open house-at our new River Center at the Head of Westport.

Warm Regards,

Anti-Bacterial Products -
Keep Them Out of Your Septic System
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director
Marketing tactics influencing the fear of bacteria and dirt have driven the demand for antibacterial soaps and products. Consumers are barraged with commercials showing that bacteria is harmful and causes illness. There are typically 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and a million bacterial cells in one ml of fresh water. Only a small number of these "germs" can cause harm to the human body. Most of the bacteria illnesses in the United States are not even from dirt, they are food born.

Sometimes antibacterial products have a negative effect on our bodies and our environment. Triclosan is a chemical in antibacterial soaps, cleaners, and antiseptic toiletries. In 2016 the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule banning the use of triclosan, triclocarban and 17 other chemicals in hand and body washes which are marketed as being more effective than simple soap. Companies have a year to take these ingredients out of their products or remove the products from the market.
Bacteria helps to decompose waste in our septic tanks. To achieve proper treatment for germs, a septic system is dependent on millions of naturally occurring bacteria throughout the system. Good bacteria from our bodies and waste are what makes a septic system function. Anaerobic bacteria in the tank decomposes organic waste. Aerobic bacteria in soil, destroys disease causing pathogens and finish breaking down molecular waste. The accumulative use of antibacterial soaps and cleaners in the home, causes significant and total destruction of both the good and bad bacteria in the septic system. Most antibacterial products are washed or flushed down the drain, however; onsite wastewater systems (septic systems) can't process these chemicals.

Because septic systems are responsible for the treatment of water that eventually returns back into the environment, septic maintenance is a vital part of ensuring a healthy and safe environment. Maintaining the bacteria in the septic system is key. 75% of all liquid soaps contain anti-bacterials as well as: shampoos, body wash, mouthwash, toothpaste, tile tub and shower cleaners, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, laundry detergents, bleach and bleach alternative products, kitchen disinfectants, dish soaps and dish washer detergents, and fabric softeners. We live in a world where we surrounded by antibacterials and it is almost impossible to eliminate using them, however; limiting the use can contain the problem.  
To limit antibacterials in your septic:
♦ Never use toilet bowl cleaners that stay in the bowl orwork after every flush.
♦ Reduce the use of drain cleaner by using drain traps.
♦ When cleaning, scrub more and use less cleaning product.
♦ Never dispose of grease in a drain, it ultimately stops bacteria from decomposing waste.
♦ Avoid excessive water flushing into the septic system -it stunts bacteria growth.
♦ Use regular soap and avoid products that say antibacterial, sanitizing and disinfectant.
♦ Use white vinegar followed by hydrogen peroxide to clean surfaces, especially in the kitchen.
♦ Avoid bleach and bleach alternatives as much as possible.
♦ Never flush prescriptions or over the counter medications (antibiotics).
Don't use harsh septic tank cleaners or septic tank additives.
♦ Be aware that while labels that read "won't harm septic tanks" won't actually harm the tank itself, but can harm the bacteria in the tank.
Get A Copy of Our New Education Book
Or view it on our web page

We are pleased to share a report on our Watershed Education Program led by WRWA Education Director, Shelli Costa. We are proud of the accomplishments and of the long term positive impact our Education programs have on local students. The Watershed Education Program is an interdisciplinary, environmental education program developed by WRWA in collaboration with teachers from the watershed schools.  The key to successful pollution prevention and preservation of our watershed resources is to provide the future stewards of the region with the awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to become effective decision makers.  The Westport River Watershed Alliance firmly believes this can be accomplished through hands-on programs, and creative thinking skills emphasized in our Watershed Education Program.

This booklet describes the program and spotlights the value this WRWA program brings to our watershed community.   Copies are available at our office or you can view the PDF of the book on line.

DCR Commissioner Comes to Westport
For Discussion of Gooseberry Island
Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Leo Roy and other DCR representatives met in November with State Rep. Paul Schmid, representatives from the Town of Westport , and the Westport River Watershed Alliance, to explore some options for improving parking, protecting wildlife, managing public access and maintaining the ecology on this sensitive coastal site.

Some of the concerns discussed included overflowing trash bins, parking lot maintenance, large numbers of unleashed dogs disturbing visitors and wildlife, and habitat restoration for nesting birds, including terns and plovers.

Representative Schmid said, "Senator Rodrigues and I are honored to have Commissioner Leo Roy come down to Westport to discuss ideas for improving access and protections for Gooseberry Island. We are pleased that the Department of Conservation and Recreation is interested in improvements to and protections of this beautiful and significant property in Westport."
The popular destination and unique oceanfront property is owned by the State of Massachusetts.


From left - Westport River Watershed Alliance Executive Director Deborah Weaver, Bob Daylor of Tetra Tech Consulting, DCR Commissioner Leo Roy, Representative Paul Schmid, DCR South Region Director Karl Pastore
Commonwealth Corps Educators
Organize Gooseberry Clean-Up


Thank you to the fifty volunteers, many from UMASS Dartmouth, who ventured out on a November Saturday to help with a general clean-up and trash removal effort on Gooseberry Island. More than thirty bags of junk were picked up, in addition to twenty battered lobster traps that had washed up. Congratulations and THANKS to Commonwealth Corps Service Members Victoria and Angie, who organized and managed the yearly event.
Go to our Facebook page to see more photos the Gooseberry clean up.

You Know What's Great
About the WRWA Calendar?

People love our annual calendar. It features tide lines, which tell you the times and heights of all the tides throughout the year. And the beautiful photographs remind us all of the beauty of our home -or our home away from home!
This year's photos are the winners chosen from over 75 entries in WRWA's photo contest held this past spring. An independent group of volunteer judges viewed the photos and selected the winners last May.
The photographs, donated by area photographers, represent the most beautiful of Westport landscapes throughout the seasons, along with some remarkable wildlife shots.
They make a great gift, especially for those who like to be reminded of summers in Westport while they are elsewhere.
The 2018 calendars are on sale now at the WRWA headquarters at 1151 Main Road, online at , and locally at Lees Market, Partners Village Store and the Dedee Shattuck Gallery.  They will also be on sale at the Westport Winter Market, Saturday mornings until Christmas at the Town Hall Annex on Main Road.

Our purchase and restoration of the old Head Garage at the Head of Westport will bring the Watershed Alliance to a new riverfront home in the very center of our watershed.

The WRWA has engaged Page Building Construction Co. of Stoughton, MA to oversee the River Center construction. Page has an impressive portfolio that includes the recently completed New Bedford Whaling Museum's Wattles-Jacobs Education Center, the Tanglewood Performing Arts Center in Lenox, MA, and Fairfield Inn and Suites in New Bedford.

We have a challenge match offered by a generous benefactor.  If we can raise $100,000 for the River Center by December 15, they will donate a matching $100,000!  This will place us within range of our fundraising goal.  Contact Development Director Gay Gillespie at 508-636-3016 to make a contribution.
To date, we have raised $1,621,688 towards our River Center funding target.   Construction will begin soon.  Stay tuned.

Creature Feature 
The Common Reed (Phragmites australis)
 by Victoria Quennessen 

You can find large patches of this tall reed near most water bodies in and around Westport, including Cockeast Pond or Emma Tripp Landing. It has gray-green leaves, and its flower head blooms purple in the late summer before turning white or silver.
A versio
n of the common reed native to the United States (
Phragmites australis subspecies americanus), has existed here since before the Europeans arrived in the fifteenth century. The settlers brought with them an invasive European variant which they used both to reduce erosion and for roofing materials. Unfortunately, it grows faster and outcompetes its North American cousin. The European version can grow up to sixteen feet tall and blocks the sun from reaching smaller plants. It also releases acids into the soil from its roots, which prevents other seeds from sprouting. This helps the common reed to form dense patches and replaces native species like cattails, which provide food and shelter for animals like muskrats and waterfowl. These patches can cover almost half of a square mile, and provide resources to fewer local creatures.
Removal strategies include using a very strong herbicide called Round-Up, which is harmful to a wide variety of plants. Such herbicides can be transferred to and kill other area plants by tidal action. Another method includes burning the reeds down before the end of July, when they store most of their food. However, their roots can survive, so the plants sometimes have to be burned three seasons in a row. A more modern clearing method includes the use of goats. Goats can eat away unwanted plants (including poison ivy!), reach where lawn mowers can't, and provide an environmentally safer alternative to chemicals. Whatever the treatment method, it's best to replant natives to keep the reeds from growing back right away. Next time you're landscaping around wetlands, check out native plants like Salt Marsh Bulrush, Broad Leaved Cattail, and Saltmeadow Cordgrass.

 Do you own a local business?
Consider becoming a WRWA Sponsor

WRWA offers many levels of annual sponsorship which can benefit your business while supporting your local environmental organization. 
We will be happy to send you a package outlining the various options, which range from single event sponsorship like River Day and our Summer Concert, to Corporate Sponsorship for year-round visibility.
Email us at for more information.


Poet's Book of Reflections on life at Westport Point
Benefits Watershed Alliance

An unusual
, highly acclaimed book of poetry that centers itself in Westport has just been published. If you think poetry today is incomprehensible or irrelevant, this book may just prove you wrong!
By Richard Dey, a former commercial fisherman and resident there, WESTPORT POINT ♦ Poems spans nearly five decades and includes poems based on offshore lobstering and swordfishing as well as on sailing a Beetle Cat on the Westport river. Other poems concern different boats and people, associating them with various themes. They are equally personal and impersonal, of the sea and the land, in formal and free verse, and a few are humorous. You are as likely to come upon a poem about a capsized boat as about the degradation of the salt marshes. There are two fine elegies also, uniting the deceased with the estuary peninsula.
Richard Dey with his son Russell, boating on the Westport River

Many of these poems were first published in magazines ranging from Poetry to Sail. What makes them unusual is that they are accessible yet literate, and unabashedly about a particular place and its people.
WESTPORT POINT ♦ Poems is available from the Westport River Watershed Alliance online at, at the WRWA office (1151 Main Road) and at Partners Village Store (855 Main Road) in Westport.

Please Save Us Your Lees Receipts!

The Watershed Alliance is a Lees Market Community Partner, and has received over $50,000 from this program since 1989. Please save up your market receipts and drop them off at 1151 Main Road, or mail to
Westport River Watershed Alliance
PO Box 3427 * Westport, MA   02790.     Thank you, Lees Market!

Corporate Sponsors

Westport River Watershed Alliance | 508-636-3016 |

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