Non-point Source POLLUTION Management: Aberjona River Watershed



Through the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Town of Woburn was awarded a 604(b) Water Quality Management Planning Grant in 2011.

The intent of 604(b) grants is to perform nonpoint source assessment and planning projects leading to the: 1) determination of the nature, extent and causes of water quality problems; 2) assessment of impacts and determination of pollutant loads reductions necessary to meet water quality standards; 3) green infrastructure projects that manage wet weather to maintain or restore natural hydrology; 4) development of designs and implementation plans that will address water quality impairments; and 5) development of  assessment and remediation strategies in impaired watersheds in areas that are not regulated under Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permits



The communities of Woburn, Burlington, Reading and Winchester collaborated with MyRWA, Tufts University and Bioengineering Group to prioritize areas for stormwater clean-up and to develop conceptual designs for ‘green’ Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Aberjona River sub-watershed.



The problem that the project is trying to address is a problem shared by almost every community in the watershed, state and country: non-point source pollution. Non-point source pollution is the mixture of pollutants picked up by rainfall as it moves through the soil and built environment.  These pollutants include fertilizers (nutrients), herbicides, oil, grease, sediments, salt and bacteria (e.g. dog waste). When the pollutants reach the waterbody, they contribute to the degradation of these waterways for recreation and wildlife habitat.  Degradation can include elevated bacteria levels that make recreation unsafe, high nutrient levels that yield development of algal blooms and invasive plants and a long-term decline in habitat quality.

Read more about non-point source pollution here.



Project partners completed conceptual designs for four sites, including the Horn Pond parking lot (Woburn), the Jenks Center parking lot (Winchester), Burlington Mall Road (Burlington) and Sturgis Park (Reading). Each of the communities is now examining funding options for building these stormwater structures.

Vegetated swales collect runoff and allow infiltration. EPA photo.Green Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Green BMPs represent an approach to wet-weather management that utilizes small-scale facilities, distributed throughout the watershed, to slow down, cleanse, infiltrate, and reuse rainwater where it falls. Specific BMPs that may be considered during our project include vegetated swales, bio-retention structures, permeable pavement, street trees and rainwater harvesting. Green BMPs – based on Low Impact Design (LID) principles - have demonstrated performance, cost effectiveness, and broad community benefits.



    1. Meeting with key municipal stakeholders in each community (such as Planners, Conservation Commissions, and Engineering Departments).
    2. Study of existing conditions including thorough review of historic water quality data, collection of water quality samples and data, and interviews with municipal staff to acquire local knowledge.
    3. Development of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) model that estimates the phosphorus content in stormwater runoff from each section of a community. The model was developed in coordination with Tufts University graduate students.
    4. Collaborative review of five high priority sites in each town with municipal staff, MyRWA and Bioengineering Group.
    5. Development of a conceptual design for the top site in each town, along with cost and pollutant removal estimates.

    The completed project sets each community on a path toward more widespread implementation of these BMPs in the future. Both the collaborative process and the outcomes of the project helped equip the towns with the information, experience, and tools necessary to successfully clean up their stormwater runoff. At this point, the project partners can then move on to pursuing implementation funds from local, state, federal and private sources, in addition to using their new skills in future work around town.


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