The Blackstone River

The Blackstone River

This summer, I will be at the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Site. This park is rich with history that dates back to American colonial times. The Blackstone gets its name from Rev. William Blackstone, an English colonizer who settled along the river to escape people. The inner hermit in me relates. The river spans approximately 48 miles starting from Worcester, MA (pronounced “wuh-stuh”) and ending in the flows into the Seekonk River just north of Providence, RI. The river is mainly known for its role in the American Industrial Revolution. In 1790, Englishman Samuel Slater Opened the first successful water-powered cotton mill (Slater Mill) in America. Later his younger brother, John Slater opened another mill upriver. At this mill, Slater created the first-ever mill village. Appropriately named “Slatersville”, America’s first mill village provided housing, a church, and a school for the mill workers. These mill villages started popping up all over the river and revolutionized the American way of work. Instead of getting paid for a product, people were now getting paid for their time. 

The river is notoriously known for its high levels of pollution. The river has faced industrial pollution for hundreds of years and is now one of America’s most polluted rivers. Everything from textile mills to bleaching mills, to wastewater treatment facilities has polluted this river. Because of this pollution, the river faces many ecological problems. This river was once a breeding ground for many anadromous fish such as herring and even Atlantic Salmon, but because of the damming and the pollution, we no longer see these fish species in the same numbers, if at all. It is also unsafe to eat the fish because of the high levels of toxins found within the fish. PCBs and heavy metals accumulate in the tissues of the fish and biomagnify as you go up the trophic levels. While recreational fishing is still popular in this river, it is not recommended one eats what they catch. 

This summer, I will be working as an environmental education intern. My duties will be to create educational activities for the general community so they can learn about the environmental and ecological health of the river. I will be hosting pop-up activities, setting up at community events, and even leading some walkabouts. I am super excited for this summer and hope y’all follow along for the journey!

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