Ten Mile River Story

The Ten Mile River supports aquatic species and the birds and animals that depend on those species for food.

In case you haven’t noticed — or haven’t dared to open your blinds to look outside — we have not had a lot of rainfall recently.

In fact, the area is in the midst of what officials formally call “moderate to severe” drought.

That sound like broken glass under your shoes that you hear as you walk across your lawn is what remains of your grass.

Your dog is looking up at you as you head out for an afternoon walk, as if to say, “Really? Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out … well, you know.”

Every community in our area is enforcing progressively more draconian limits on outdoor water use.

Hated mask mandates? You are going to love the watering police. (Well not really. Not yet.)

Which brings us to the importance of water in our area.

As the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance points out: “Drought reduces flows in rivers and streams, concentrating pollutants that harm ecosystems and threaten public health. In 2016 and 2020, many of our rivers saw record low flows, and some sections of major rivers, like the Ipswich and Parker, went dry. Right now, 90% of the state is experiencing drought conditions.”

The Ten Mile River, which flows through the center of the area The Sun Chronicle covers, has been as abused and as hard-working a stream as it is possible to imagine for the better part of three centuries. We still need the Ten Mile as it is a vital part of the area’s aquifer and the wastewater treatment system.

It’s no longer the open industrial sewer it was before the passage of the federal Clean Water Act 50 years ago this year.

But, as today’s front page story by staff writer Tom Reilly points out, it still faces major challenges and that affects all of us.

Because the threat now comes, not from jewelry makers and other factories heedlessly pouring their waste into the Ten Mile and forgetting about it, but us.

So called “non-point” pollution is the major threat to urban waterways like the Ten Mile.

Oil and snow-melting chemicals on roads and parking lots, fertilizer intended to keep those lawns green (and how’s that working out this month?) runoff from roofs and other impervious surfaces all wind up flowing down to the river.

And that’s with the enforcement of stormwater management plans carried out by each of the communities along the river’s course and the efforts by land trusts and volunteer, nonprofit groups like The Friends of the Ten Mile River Watershed.

Today, you can walk along the Ten Mile River in many places, including the Balfour Riverwalk and the Kevin Dumas Walkway in Attleboro. Just being close to its free flowing water restores the spirit. Take a moment to pause and look down, however.

When you see that reflection, consider who is responsible for keeping the health of the river progressing.