In an all-new The Business Beat, Steve Jones-D’Agostino, strategic partner of Susan Wagner PR + Best Rate of Climb, interviews John Giangregorio, president of Preservation Worcester, chair of the Canal District Business Association and former president of the Canal District Alliance. They talk about the revitalization of the Blackstone Canal.
A new study sponsored by the Canal District and WPI addresses the cost concerns of restoring or replicating the Blackstone Canal between Union Station and Kelley Square on Harding Street. This study focuses on separating the Combined Sewer Overflow from the Mill Brook/Blackstone Canal.
The Blackstone Canal was developed in 1824 by widening and dredging a natural stream the Mill Brook and laying granite block on its banks and bottom. This shallow waterway allowed horse-towed packet boats to deliver goods and supplies into downtown Worcester from Providence in two days.
The Mill Brook carried natural-flowing water from the Blackstone River’s northern watershed, collected at Indian Lake and running from Salisbury Pond (formerly North Pond) to present-day Walmart, where it joined the Middle River, forming the beginning of the Blackstone River.
The Blackstone Canal brought immediate prosperity to Worcester and population growth. In just 20 years, in 1848, Worcester had incorporated as a city, and several rail lines were built connecting Worcester to the port cities of Boston and Providence.
Like all emerging cities, Worcester did not have public infrastructure for water or sewerage. Industrial and human waste was dumped into the Mill Brook and, in the mid 19th century the Commonwealth of Massachusetts allowed sewage discharge into the Mill Brook. In the latter 19th century the Mill Brook’s open water was so offensive and a threat to human health it was enclose and became part of the city’s sewerage infrastructure.
The federal Clean Water Act, enacted in 1972, sought to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waterways by preventing point and non-point pollution sources, providing assistance to publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands. Upstream states have an obligation to comply with downstream states’ regulations.