Panel on Stormwater Draws a Crowd

On Saint Patrick’s Day eve over 50 people gathered in the Malden Library to hear about innovative ways to address stormwater runoff in the Commonwealth. The panel presentation brought together the three Boston area watershed groups representing the Mystic, Neponset and Charles Rivers, as well as an environmental engineer. Hosted by the Mystic River Watershed Association and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), many project stories, lessons learned and challenges were shared.

Stormwater runoff represents one of the largest sources of pollution in urban areas such as the metro Boston region. While rainfall is relatively clean, stormwater picks up pollutant material on road surfaces, lawns and parking lots and delivers it to nearby water bodies. The result is that many of the water bodies we care about are contaminated with fecal bacteria, nutrients and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms, often making them unsafe to swim in or boat on.

One way to capture and treat some of this stormwater is by utilizing a stormwater Best Management Practice (BMP) or retrofit. These structures include rain gardens, vegetated swales, tree box filters, permeable pavement, and curb extensions. BMPs are designed to reduce stormwater volume, peak flows, and/or nonpoint source pollution through evapotranspiration, infiltration, detention, and filtration.

Patrick Herron, Water Quality Monitoring Director at the Mystic River Watershed Association kicked-off the presentations by detailing the project process the Association has taken with initiating stormwater BMP design. In Chelsea, the Association partnered closely with the Chelsea Collaborative and Charles River Watershed Association to build community involvement. The goal of the project was to both address stormwater and improve the aesthetics of the street to make it a more “livable street.” Community engagement was a high priority for this project, and included public meetings, design charrettes and utilizing youth to help assess possible sites and educate the community about the project.  Herron stated, “It’s helpful to identify a local champion for projects – someone who knows the community and is excited about the project. This person, we have found, can be essential in gathering support and enthusiasm for projects and really helping us to open doors in a community.”  For more information on the Mystic River Watershed Association’s stormwater projects see

Heading south to the Charles River Watershed Association, Pallavi Kalia Mande, Director of Blue Cities©, presented on several stormwater Best Management Practices that they have undertaken. Their Blue Cities© program uses water centric urban design that aims to restore urban greenscapes and natural hydrologic function. The Association has implemented this approach across the subwatershed, neighborhood, and site-specific scale. For more information on the Charles River Watershed Association’s Blue Cities© program see

Ian Cooke, Executive Director at the Neponset River Watershed Association highlighted their involvement in the construction of a wetland to treat road runoff, as well as the installation of fourteen tree box filters.  The Association has worked with a number of towns to locate the best locations to install stormwater BMP retrofits - typically working with the DPW, Engineering and Conservation Commission staff to make recommendations for BMPs. They place an emphasis on publicly-owned locations as potential BMP locations. For more information on the Neponset River Watershed Association’s stormwater projects see

Finally, Tom Pawlina, Principal at ATP Environmental wrapped up the presentation component of the night. Tom has been involved with stormwater mitigation for over 12 years in Duxbury and Kingston in Cape Cod Bay. Much of this work began out of the concern of the health of oysters, which are grown in the Bay.

The Boston area continues to implement innovative ways to treat stormwater runoff. Through this presentation, local watershed associations were able to share their experiences with the public as well as with each other. In all four presentations, emphasis was made on having clear and regular communications with project partners and city or town staff and to expect delays in your project. With the forecast of more frequent and intense storms, as well as expanding impervious areas, addressing stormwater through Best Management Practices is an essential aspect of caring for our shared water resources.