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The Arlington-based Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) rolls on, recognizing volunteers and electing officers.

At its annual meeting, the nonprofit environmental group presented awards to volunteers and partners for their efforts in protecting and preserving the watershed. 

Ripple Award

Jada Simmons Ononeme, a fourth-grade teacher at the George Keverian School, Everett, received the Ripple Award. It celebrates an individual who’s work with the group ripples out and affects the broader community.

For the past two school years, Onomeme and her students learned about the Mystic River and the problem of storm-water pollution. They examined storm drains, thought about storm drain infrastructure, and how a storm-water system is different from the sewer system. They brainstormed ideas for reducing pollution in storm water and designed a different type of storm drain that could reduce pollution entering the river. And then diagrammed their ideas and built 3-D models.

Finally, they shared what they had learned and thought about with others- creating public-service messages and talking about their learning with invited guests. Last year, this all happened via Zoom – no small feat for fourth graders.

Starting at the end of October, those involved are working together again to introduce students to the river, water-quality issues related to storm water, the engineering process, problem solving and design.  

Municipal partner

Ale Echandi, inland ecologist at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), was recognized as a municipal partner.

So much of MyRWA’s work, especially in its Greenways efforts, depend on having municipal partners. Echandi cares deeply about the work, an Oct. 26 MyRWA news release says. She has spent the last eight years at DCR as a natural resources and trail specialist, and before that, she served as an ecological scientist at the BSC Group. This last year, she has helped the MyRWA advocate for, and permit, the first native meadow on the Mystic Reservation — now at Blessing of the Bay Park. She has also been a partner in the nonprofit's invasive work at Torbert Macdonald Park. 

Top volunteers

The Volunteers of the Year are Iris and Jasmine Zhao of Malden.

Both came to four water chestnut events and signed up for more, which had to be canceled because of weather. They offered significant help to MyRWA staff and are happy to do the less glamorous jobs of standing on shore to receive water chestnut baskets or combing through bittersweet piles to remove every last berry.

Water-quality monitors

This was the 21st year for the group's baseline monitoring project. Every month dozens of volunteers go out and collect water samples from 11 water bodies. That data:

  • Brings media attention to water pollution. This year, for the first time, the three rivers of Boston Harbor — the Mystic, Charles and Neponset — presented water-quality report cards. Media reports told an important regional story – that while the Clean Water Act has had significant environmental impact, water pollution remains a key issue, especially on tributaries.
  • Leads to enforcing environmental laws. Baseline data on bacteria contamination has been part of the case used by the EPA to encourage and even force municipalities to find the sources of sewage contamination. 
  • Serves as baseline data was background historical data reported a few years ago in the MyWRA phosphorus study, which will lead to regulators demanding improvements in storm water. 
  • Informs habitat assessments for herring runs and ecological restoration projects. 

In a tradition of noting volunteers who reach five-year and multiples of five, the group recognized those celebrating five, 10, 15 and 20th anniversaries.

Karen Buck (Malden) and Jack Beusmans (Medford) have been with our Lower Mystic Baseline program essentially since the beginning of that survey 10 years ago.

Katie Moore (Melrose)  and Kimi Ceridon (Medford) play an essential role of substitutes for the Upper Mystic Baseline program for five years and 10 years, respectively.

Moira Ashleigh (Woburn) has monitored the Aberjona River for 10 years and is a passionate advocate for Horn Pond.

Bob Knippen (Cambridge) has been a loyal member of the crew that monitors Alewife Brook for 15 years. Tracy Olsen (Winchester) and her family have been monitoring on the Aberjona River for a 20 years.

3 new experts added to board

The MyRWA also announced the addition of Terry E. Carter, Erga Pierrette and Julie Ing Stern to its board of directors.

"As we grow and expand as an organization—we depend on a strong board of directors knowledgeable about our communities and the issues they are facing,” said Patrick Herron, executive director, after the Oct. 20 board meeting.

“Bringing a deep passion for a healthy environment and equity, this new slate of directors will help MyRWA as we undertake work today and for the future.”

Carter is a seasoned diversity, equity and inclusion consultant who advises on specialized messaging for educational institutions, small businesses, nonprofits and individual clients in the areas of content development for web, marketing collateral, academic editing, book development and public policy.

He manages the day-to-day operations of the elder-services program at the West Medford Community Center, a neighborhood-based organization in one of Massachusetts' oldest black communities.

A classically-trained poet, he has written and published five books of poetry, available at He became the City of Medford's first poet laureate last July and will serve until 2023. 

West Medford roots

"Growing up in West Medford, the Mystic River has always been part of my backyard,” said Carter in a news release. “We played by it, prayed by it and learned to live with its limitations and possibilities.

“MyRWA has been in careful stewardship of this resource for nearly 50 years, and the investment of time, talent and treasure continues to yield extremely positive and visible results. In my own small way, I hope to make a contribution to these ongoing efforts and help to bring new diversity and greater equity to the work and the communities it serves!"

Social worker

Pierrette is a licensed clinical social worker who is passionate about education and social justice. She earned a BSW from Salem State University, where she became the first black woman student trustee and co-founded the Multicultural Student Association.

She holds an MSW from Simmons University and is a licensed school adjustment counselor. Pierrette is a co-convener for Malden Community Organizing for Racial Equity (MaldenCORE), co-chair of the Malden Cultural Council, Mystic Valley Opportunity Center advisory board member and serves on the executive board of the Mystic Valley Area Branch NAACP. 

“I am overjoyed about this opportunity, to becoming a part of MyRWA! I am looking forward to adding more partnerships to this amazing group and helping MyRWA reflect our various communities,” said Pierrette, of Malden.

Natural approach

Stern has been a supporter of the natural world since childhood (she still has the rock collection she started in kindergarten). When she is not outside skiing, hiking, running, biking, traveling or just going for a walk, she is working as an acupuncturist.

She is a master of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, licensed by the state Board of Medicine, and also nationally certified for more than 15 years. Since 2007, she has been a part of Global Alternative Healthcare Project and Global Healthworks Foundation, and has volunteered weeks of time annually in Indonesia, Nepal , Navajo Nation and Guatemala. 

As a volunteer for MyRWA, she has counted herring, built tree swallow bird houses, painted the mural at the Mystic Lakes, collected local heat map data, helped with trivia contests and represented the group at local events.

“I am excited about this new opportunity because I care deeply about the world around us, and can’t think of a better way to do some good than to work with a wonderful grass-roots group in my own backyard,” said the Winchester resident.

At the annual meeting, Barbara Kessner Landau an attorney with Noble, Wickersham & Heart, and Karl Touet, a principal at the environmental insurance brokerage firm of Twin Elms, were reelected to second terms. The board, now with 18 members, is charged with organizational oversight, leadership in strategic planning and connecting to the wider community. The MyRWA is led by professional staff and also organizes thousands of volunteers working together on a project-by-project basis. 

For more information see

Oct. 21, 2021: Highlights of the MWRA annual meeting

This news announcement was published Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021.