WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $671,000 grant to the town of Grafton, Mass., to build and operate an innovative stormwater and wastewater treatment park along the Blackstone River and historic industrial canal. The Blackstone River is currently on the state’s list of impaired water bodies because of high biological oxygen demand and suspended solid readings, which come mostly from wastewater treatment plant effluents and urban run-off, and heavy metals, which come primarily from industrial waste. The treatment park will improve the water quality of the Blackstone River and help to protect the town’s water supply.

The treatment park is innovative for the technologies it employs and also for the idea of treating and replacing surface water. The treatment system will remove water from the canal, treat it in a series of biological reactors, and then discharge the treated water back to the canal. Pilot-scale tests have shown that this system is able to improve contaminated canal water to near drinking water standards. The system will look like a small botanical garden-type structure and will be used as an environmental education center for school groups. The project will serve as a national model for the conversion and reuse of environmentally impaired industrial infrastructure, such as mill ponds and industrial canals.