Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Assabet River - Sudbury Rd. to Fort Meadow Brook

Late this morning I was able to get out on the Assabet River and enjoy some fairly warm temperatures for a change.  The wind, which has been busy of late, lessened as the morning turned to afternoon.  By the time I reached my turnaround point at the mouth of Fort Meadow Brook, a real nice day was taking shape.  Electing not to pass under the box culvert where the brook enters the river, I did go ashore and snap a photo while standing atop it.  The view at left is looking at the spot where brook and river join.
The trip upriver to this point had been a pleasant one with numerous sightings of wood ducks, mallards, blue herons, turkey vultures, turtles and many a musquash.  The turtles were once again soaking up the sun's rays...
There had been a fair amount of trash encountered today and the trip back saw one group riding in an impromptu forecastle while the others stayed aft, below deck...
Once back at Sudbury Road, both groups mingled hullside...
In addition to Gabriel's Horn, there were 71 other pieces of trash recovered.   Recyclable containers numbered 29 with 4 of those being redeemable.  The remaning 43 pieces consisted of miscellaneous rubbish such as a paint can, a large styrofoam chunk, pieces of plastic, an automotive piston, and the aforementioned plastic milk crate.  My YTD total stands at 587.
I hope other folks were able to ignore the revved-up weather forcasters and enjoy the nice day at hand. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lower Sudbury and Assabet Rivers

Today's winter-like chill wasn't very welcoming of the newly hatched spring, but at least it wasn't snowing and the water was mostly of the liquid form.  Every once in awhile the wind would let up a little and the sun would emerge from behind the clouds just long enough to demonstrate its rapidly gaining late March strength.  The photo at left was taken at just such a moment while heading downstream on the Assabet River.
Earlier I patrolled the last mile of the Sudbury before taking refuge from the wind at the base of Egg Rock...
Leaving Egg Rock, I ascended the Assabet River up to Spencer Brook before turning around and retracing my paddle dips.  Water levels remain fairly high thus allowing access to trash located in spots that are usually beyond the reach of an outstretched paddle.

Saw my first tree swallows of the year near Willow Island.  Wood ducks and mallards were plentiful as well as Canada geese.  A red-tailed hawk was perched at Egg Rock.  The only swimming critter seen today was a lone musquash.

The Calf Pasture provided a nice spot for all passengers to go ashore and gather hull-side for a portrait...
Quite a hodgepodge of trash today.  The haul of 67 was composed of a plastic chair, spray paint can, 2 bags with green dye, glass and plastic bottles, styrofoam containers, and a soccer ball.  Recyclable containers numbered 23 (3 redeemable) and there were 44 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish.  My YTD total is 515.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A River Not Found on Any Map

My Dad often spoke of a river he hoped to someday make it across.  I recall it having something to do with Greek mythology and that he considered it a fairly important matter.  Not having the required fare for passage was a situation he did not wish to encounter.

The name of the river of which he spoke was the River Styx, and you won't find it on any map.  It and several other rivers mentioned in Greek mythology separate the world of the living from the world of the dead.  On the shore of either the Styx or perhaps the River Acheron, waits the ancient boatman, Charon.  If all else is in order, he'll accept one's obolus or payment of silver, and ferry their soul across the river to Hades, where it may be possible for some to journey onward to the Elysian Fields.

Yesterday, in the last few hours of a particularly tough winter, my father passed away.  He was in his 85th year.  During World War II and the Korean Conflict, he served his country as a member of the United States Navy.  While in the Navy he volunteered for extra hazardous duty and was subsequently trained to become an Underwater Demolition Team "Frogman".  Being a UDT frogman entailed swimming in often dangerous enemy controlled waters to perform underwater reconnaissance and, if necessary, demolition of obstacles the enemy had placed to prevent US forces from landing.  Their uniform in the field was quite spartan, consisting only of swim trunks, fins, and a mask.  Their only weapon was a knife.  Because of this, they were sometimes referred to as "naked warriors".  

In a few days Dad should be reaching the river and bargaining with Charon.  I'm already envisioning his hand raised triumphantly upon reaching the other side.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Higher Estimates for Plastic Disks Released to Merrimack River

As is often the case with releases to the environment, initial estimates are much lower than the actual amount.  In my recent post "Bugs on the Run in the Merrimack", I mentioned estimates of released plastic disks numbering in the tens of thousands.  According to this article which appeared Wednesday in, those estimates were understated.  Current estimates for the number of released  plastic disks (aka Biofilm Chip M media) are now at 4 to 8 million.  This represents 10 to 20% of the 39 million disks employed at the facility.  The disks are washing up on more and more shorelines between Salem, Massachusetts and the coast of New Hampshire.  I've yet to hear of any floating disks being seen by boaters and wonder if the disks might be more easily recovered from the water's surface with nets.  Sure would fill a lot of kayaks!

There are many questions as to exactly what happened at the Hooksett Wastewater Facility.  Is it true that there was no high tank level alarm?  Are reports stating that no personnel checked the facility on the Sunday in question, despite the combination of heavy rain and snowmelt, correct?  What about the manufacturers "media retention sieves"?  Were they in place?  If so, was the hydraulic force strong enough to overcome the retention sieves?

Working in the field of wastewater treatment, I've seen a situation where media escaped past a retention system.  Perhaps media retention is an area where a backup system or screen would not be redundant.  Just as with double-walled fuel tanks and double-hulled fuel tankers, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Heath's Bridge & Return

The Sudbury River was open-water again between Rt. 2 and Heath's Bridge.  At least it was that way on my trip upriver.  However, the view at left greeted me on my return trip.  The slab of ice that stretched across the river's main channel had earlier resided in a shallow cove.  Fortunately, with water levels so high I was able to paddle around the ice by leaving the main channel and paddling through the adjacent woods.  In fact, much of today's trash was found in areas that are usually dry land.  The lion's share of trash was found alongside the westbound lane of Rt. 2.
Also working the flooded sections, this afternoon, was this musquash...
Other critters seen today were ducks, Canada geese, and a hawk.
There was plenty of sunshine for the rounded-up refuse to bask in...
It was a fairly good haul for just a mile and a half stretch of river.  The total today was 116 and was composed of 52 recyclable containers (16 redeemable) and 64 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as mylar balloons, styrofoam containers, and plastic bags.  My YTD total stands at 448.  A couple of Heineken bottles provided a touch of green for Saint Patrick's Day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Old Brand Name Flickers in the Night

Early morning commuters on the Mass Pike in Framingham must have wondered, recently, why this brand name from the past was once again radiant.  The sign has been dark since, possibly, the late 1970's when the Breyers brand name rendered it obsolete.    Now, the facility where ice cream has been made since 1964 is preparing to make its last batch, and the old sign has, mysteriously, come back to life. 
Somehow, it seems a fitting way to acknowledge the plant's history and the role its played in the lives of the folks who worked there.
In only a few weeks, many of the 200 employees will be seeing this view for the last time as they exit down Sealtest Drive...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bugs on the Run in the Merrimack River

It was a dark and stormy night on the first Sunday in March when gazillions of bugs (aka micro-organisms) escaped from the confines of the Hooksett, New Hampshire wastewater treatment facility.  Once "out and about", they quickly made their way to the Merrimack River where their hi-tech plastic abodes became rafts in an oxygen sucking flotilla heading to the sea.  Apparently, their escape went undetected until this past weekend when beachcombers on either side of the Merrimack River's outlet in Newburyport began noticing numerous small plastic disks littering the shore.  This account provides the details.

This is really an unfortunate incident and a good example of "sometimes the best intentions go astray", quite literally.  According to an article that appeared in Water & Wastes Digest magazine, the Town of Hookset was trying to upgrade their wastewater treatment plant.  The plant was going to be one of the first in New Hampshire to utilize biological nitrogen removal and the first in the United States to use the Biofilm Chip M in the Integrated Fixed Film Activated Sludge (IFAS) process.  The project was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was projected to save the Town of Hooksett 1 million dollars by not having to install larger tanks.

It seems the bugs didn't fare so well from their adventure and have lost most of their bio vitality.  The plastic disks they rode to freedom, however, are estimated to be in the tens of thousands and will be an unsightly nuisnace for some time to come.  Good bet there'll be a lot of very frustrated sea-gulls.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Welcoming D.S.T. on Danversport Waters

Thanks to the start of Lent and the associated uptick in demand for fish products, I found myself working, this morning, at a seafood processing facility.  Once my work was complete, I headed over to nearby Pope's Landing in Danversport and launched my boat into the Porter (aka Pouomeneuhant) River.  Skies were brightening, the tide was on the rise, and Daylight Saving Time was finally here!  Also rising was a blustery breeze out of the northwest.
Heading downriver with the breeze at my back, I passed numerous empty boatslips.  Reminded me of a drive-in theatre without any cars.  The only boats I saw tied up in the water were working boats such as this one...
This boat's name sums up the way most folks are feeling at the tail-end of a tough winter.  "Caged Up" was tied up in the Crane (aka Conamabsquenooncant) River.
I ventured up the Crane and passed under Rt. 35 (Water St.) near the Crane River Laundromat.  At the short railroad trestle the tide had yet to provide enough water, so I turned around and headed towards the Waters (aka Soewamapenessett) River.  On the way, I passed these guys...

I inquired as to the meanings of the Native American names for these waters.  No consensus could be reached, but they did, however, take my request under advisement.

Ascending the Waters River, once again, I passed under Rt. 35 (Water St.) and came within sight of the large railroad trestle before deciding to head back to my original starting point.
After a quick 2 hours on the water, I arrived back at Pope's Landing...
It was my first time launching there and it looks to be a fine facility.  Once it opens for the season, there is a $5 launching fee.  I imagine this area is pretty congested with vessels of all types in the summer months.

My very modest trash haul of 10 pieces posed on my wind-sheltered deck...

There were 4 recyclable containers and 6 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish.  My YTD total stands at 332.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Assabet Chugging Through Maynard Today

The Assabet River was offering the fastest route through Maynard this afternoon.  Last night's heavy rain combined with two days of snowmelt have given the river a heavy workload and she's not slowing down in the slightest, as she races under Main Street. For folks with the right boat and paddling skills, I imagine this looks tempting.  I, on the other hand, prefer things a little more sedate. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sudbury River - Little Farms Rd. to Heard Pond Outlet & Return

It sure felt like spring out on the Sudbury River today.  Warmer temperatures, a little sunshine, and open water.  In fact lots of open water as the river is full and flowing with a strong current.  Most of the usual critters were in attendance such as wood ducks, mallards, Canda geese, many robins, red-winged blackbirds (heard but not seen), belted kingfishers, and a marsh hawk.
I trashpatrolled from the launch site at Little Farms Rd. down to the Heard Pond outlet and back.  The opening photo shows the area of the power lines.  The ridgeline along the rivers north side showed a good amount of bare ground, as can be seen in this photo...
Good thing this canoe was chained to the tree at the hill's base.

Once back at Little Farms, I unloaded today's recovered trash onto the small bit of available dry-ground...
There were 148 pieces of trash and the breakdown was as follows: 87 recyclable containers (13 redeemable) and 61 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as styrofoam, nip bottles, a plastic bat, and a canoe paddle.  My YTD total stands at 322.

At the old stone bridge I encountered a young fellow who related a canoeing/fishing mishap that befell him, his father, and brother last year.  Their boat and almost all of their gear was lost.  The canoe was later recovered downstream, and this past fall, I came upon one of their tackle boxes, which I will be returning to them soon.  From his description of the event, they were very fortunate to make it safely out of the river on that day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Scouting Launch Sites in Danversport

Since working in Danvers, more and more of late, I decided to check out some of the town's local waters and boat launching sites on this cold but sunny morning.
Little did I know of the historic role Danversport played in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  It was once part of old Salem Village, and driving along Endicott Street, Waters Street, and Liberty Street I was struck by the look and feel of the place.  The Internet provided a wealth of information as to the the area's history.  Two sources I found most helpful were the Danversport Harbormaster's Web site and the book "Chronicles of Danvers (old Salem Village) Massachusetts 1632 to 1923" written by Harriet Silvester Tapley.   From these two Web sites I found that the Danversport area had been originally occupied by the Naumkeag Indians and was part of a Sachemdom ruled over by Nanepashemet.  The port is located on two necks of land extending towards the Danvers River and these necks separate three short tidal rivers: Porter River, Crane River, and Waters River.  Anyone driving north on Route 128 can see the general area by looking to their right while passing the Liberty Tree Mall.  Some may recall the "Danvers Explosion" which ocurred back in November 2006 when a chemical plant blew-up in the middle of the night, destroying approximately 100 homes in Danversport.

Back in 1628, nine years after the death of Nanepashemet, John Endecott and his Dorchester Company arrived here from England with a grant of 300 acres on the larger of the two necks.  Endecott would later become the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The smaller neck was known as Skelton's Neck.  Prior to Endecott's arrival, the Native people referred to the larger neck as Wahquaineschok, said to mean Birchwood, and the smaller Skelton's Neck was called Wahquack, meaning unknown.  The Native names for the rivers were Orkhussunt for the Danvers River, Conamabsquenooncant for the Crane River, and Soewamapenessett for the Waters River.  The Native name for the Porters River, Pouomeneuhcant, was found in a third source "The Indian Land Titles of Essex County, Massachusetts" by Sidney Perley (1912).  It is fortunate that these names were preserved by writers/historians such as Tapley and Perley, and I'd love to know what the names meant to Native Americans.   However, I'm afraid it may be too late to ever know this with any degree of certainty.

The launchsites I visited today were both located on Skelton's Neck.  Pictured in the opening photo and below is Popes Landing providing access to the Porter River...
Hard to believe the water's surface was iced over on this fourth day of March.  This is salt water and tidal.  Just another testament to how tough Old Man Winter has been in 2011.

The other launchsite was Crane River Marina providing access to the Crane River...

It didn't take long to gather up 29 pieces of trash between the two sites; mostly beer cans bringing my YTD trash total to 174.

Soon, on a warmer day, I hope to paddle the waters in this area and contemplate what those interesting Native American names may have been alluding to.