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Blog - Charles River Watershed Association

Collaboration Toward a Greener Future

Posted by Robert Zimmerman

7/12/16 6:00 AM

By Charles River Watershed Association and Conservation Law Foundation

Since 1949, the Kendall Cogeneration Station, located near Longfellow Bridge and now owned by Veolia, had been withdrawing 77 million gallons of Charles River water to cool its three turbines. Called “once-through” cooling, the water was pumped through a piping network and used to convert the steam that had already given up most of it’s energy to making electricity back to liquid water.  This cooling water did not contact the steam but absorbed heat that was then discharged back to the Charles River from 10-20 degrees warmer than when withdrawn. The daily volume used ( 77 million gallons) is often greater than the flow of the Charles in summer. Since the ambient surface temperature of the Charles can reach 85 degrees in the summer, the added heat upsets the river ecosystem, contributes to algal blooms, and has contributed to fish kills.

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5 Methods Used by CRWA to Monitor the Charles River

Posted by Julie Dyer Wood

9/18/14 10:08 AM

The Charles, like any natural environment, is a complex, interconnected, living, changing system. At CRWA, our work is guided by the philosophy that we cannot address and manage problems in the Charles without understanding them. Collecting and analyzing our own data is a critical piece of this process and the backbone of CRWA’s advocacy and design work. Whether monitoring is conducted by staff, interns or volunteers, everyone follows strict monitoring protocols to ensure we collect the most accurate data available. In celebration of World Water Monitoring Day, read on to learn more about five ways CRWA monitors the Charles every day. 

READ: CRWA's Volunteer Monitoring Program 2016 Final Report

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Kendall Plant to Eliminate Thermal Pollution in the Charles River

Posted by Amy Rothe

6/19/14 5:02 PM

Kendall_plant_300x200pxOn May 20, 2014, an important component of Charles River Watershed Association’s (CRWA) and Conservation Law Foundation’s (CLF) settlement of the GenOn Kendall Cogeneration Plant’s (now owned by Veolia North America) Clean Water Act discharge permit became a reality. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Museum of Science, Veolia commemorated its “Green Steam” project, which includes the completion of a 7,000-foot steam pipeline extension from its Cambridge plant to Boston, and a planned reconfiguration of the combined heat and power plant. The pipeline connection and the planned reconfiguration will eliminate thermal discharge of heated water from the plant into the Charles. Previously, the plant discharged approximately 70 million gallons of heated water into the Charles daily, a volume often equal to the entire flow of the river during summer months.


CRWA and CLF began negotiations with the plant about the heated discharge in 1998, when then-owner Southern Energy upgraded the Kendall Square Station. CLF and CRWA argued that the plant’s discharge of heated water into Charles not only destroyed aquatic habitat, fish and other wildlife, but was also partly responsible for toxic algal blooms in the Charles River Lower Basin. It took CRWA and CLF over a decade of negotiations with first Southern Energy, followed by successive companies Mirant and GenOn, for the plant to develop a co-generation plan that ended the heated water discharge to the river. During this time, CRWA worked closely with GenOn’s Shawn Konary, who was the plant representative responsible for the new technology.


“Veolia is to be commended for the construction of the new pipe that carries the steam into Boston,” said Bob Zimmerman, CRWA’s Executive Director. “This is an innovative, energy-generating, and river friendly solution that should serve as a model for other cities.”


In addition to minimizing environmental impacts to the Charles River, Veolia’s plan to now capture and reuse heat will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the cities of Boston and Cambridge. For more information on Veolia’s “Green Steam” project, visit their website or read the company's recent press release.

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About Charles River Watershed Association:

One of the country's oldest watershed organizations, Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA) was formed in 1965 in response to public concern about the declining condition of the Charles. Since its earliest days of advocacy, CRWA has figured prominently in major clean-up and watershed protection efforts, working with government officials and citizen groups from 35 Massachusetts watershed towns from Hopkinton to Boston. Initiatives over the last fifty years have dramatically improved the quality of water in the watershed and fundamentally changed approaches to water resource management.