The Woonasquatucket River
In 1998, the Woonasquatucket River received national distinction when it was recognized as an American Heritage River. Once the supplier of power to many of Rhode Island’s textile mills, the Woonasquatucket fell into neglect as the textile industry declined. Today, however, thanks to the coordinated efforts of community, environmental, and governmental groups, the Woonasquatucket has become a focal point for revitalization efforts. Winding its way from northwestern Rhode Island into the heart of downtown Providence, the river sets the stage for Waterfire events and a greenway.
Fifteen combined sewer overflows discharge into the Woonasquatucket. These CSO discharges will cease as a result of Phase II of the NBC’s CSO abatement plan, scheduled to begin construction in FY 2010. The Rhode Island Department of Health has also issued a “catch and release” advisory for the river due to elevated levels of dioxin detected in the water and sediment.
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The Moshassuck River
The Moshassuck River begins in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and flows ten miles into Providence where it meets the Woonasquatucket River in Providence’s Waterplace Park. At that point the waters of the two rivers combine to form the Providence River, which joins the waters of the Blackstone/Seekonk system, which flow to Narragansett Bay and the sea. Twelve CSOs discharge to the Moshassuck River watershed: 10 to the river directly, and 2 to the West River, a tributary of the Moshassuck.
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The Blackstone River
The Blackstone River begins in Worcester, Massachusetts, and flows southward over the Slater Mill falls into the Seekonk River at the head of Narragansett Bay. The river has been a part of American history since 1635 when William Blackstone established the first English settlement in Rhode Island. In 1793, Samuel Slater’s Mill became the first cotton mill in the United States to use mechanical spinning machines, launching the Industrial Revolution in America.
A century of industrial use left the Blackstone polluted by textile dyes, heavy metals, and other toxic substances. Even though much of the manufacturing activity of the Blackstone area has now moved South or abroad, many of these pollutants can still be found in the river's sediments today.
Today, much of the Blackstone River is suitable for agricultural use, bathing, and other recreational activities, as well as fish and wildlife habitat. In wet weather, 20 CSOs in the NBC’s service area flow into the river.
In 1986, the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor was established by Congress to preserve and interpret the significant historic and cultural lands, waterways, and structures within the valley. The National Park Service is working with Rhode Island and Massachusetts to pursue park development along the River and to coordinate a valley-wide land use strategy.
In Rhode Island, the Department of Environmental Management is developing a greenway along the Blackstone between the villages of Albion and Berkley. A bikeway is also under development, which will ultimately extend from India Point Park in Providence west to North Smithfield and east to Bristol.
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The Seekonk River
The Backstone River flows into the Seekonk River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The Seekonk continues along the eastern border of Providence until it joins with the Providence River and flows into Narragansett Bay. The NBC’s Bucklin Point WWTF, which is also home to a wildlife management area that attracts osprey, fox, and even a bald eagle, discharges cleaned effluent into the river.
Traditionally, the Seekonk served as a transportation route between Narragansett Bay and the industrial mills on the Blackstone. Today, it is home to the nation’s oldest rowing club (the Narragansett Boat Club) as well as a growing amount of fish and wildlife.
Eleven CSOs discharge into the Seekonk River, which will cease in Phase III of the NBC’s CSO Abatement Plan.
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The Providence River
Formed by the confluence of the Woonasquatucket and Moshassuck Rivers, the Providence River runs through the heart of downtown Providence, and joins with the Seekonk River at the mouth of Narragansett Bay. The river benefited from a $60 million improvement project in the 1980s and 1990s, creating over 11 acres of urban riverfront parks and the main stage for the city’s Waterfire events. Boats navigate to and depart from the Waterplace Park by way of extensive downtown river channels. Riverwalks are available for pedestrians and joggers and an amphitheater and smaller plazas provide places for music, theater, and other forms of entertainment to be performed.
Twelve CSOs discharge into the Providence River, including the largest CSO in the NBC system, located at the Field’s Point WWTF. The combined sewage from all of these discharge points will be diverted and treated in Phase I of the NBC’s CSO Abatement Plan, in construction from 2001-2008.
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