Volunteer of the Month – Steve Silva

Steve Silva at the Water Testing Workshop

Steve Silva is our Volunteer of the month for February. A retired Water Quality Director for the EPA, his passion at TRWA is to raise the water quality in the Watershed to higher and higher standards.

Joe Callahan TRWA president says, “Steve Silva is a tremendous asset and addition to the TRWA organization. He stepped in immediately to assume leadership role in running our successful water quality monitoring program.  It is a natural fit given his experience with the US EPA in the water section.  He is a great resource to the entire watershed and represents TRWA in his tireless work in the Resilient Taunton Watershed Network.  Steve is also currently serving as Secretary for TRWA, and his detailed note taking has meant our meetings have gone smoothly, and well-organized and much more informative. Much thanks to Steve Silva our volunteer of the month and more.”     

Unlike some of the other TRWA volunteers, Steve says he has never lived along a river, and unlike many in TRWA, doesn’t spend much recreational time on a river. While many of our members are looking for beautiful nature shots, he is more often pursuing pictures of algae blooms and slime.

Here’s how you can help Steve keep to raise the quality of the rivers, streams and wetlands of our Watershed. 

  1. Don’t pass up a good algae or slime picture. We want to see them, know where the picture was taken and the date. They help in evaluating the water conditions.
  2. Volunteer for the water quality testing program. By this summer Steve is hoping there may be enough folks vaccinated to do a Saturday morning training session and them sample late summer through October. The program needs a few new volunteers. Keep checking back on Facebook for a starting date. https://savethetaunton.org/get-involved/volunteer-opportunities/ 
  3. Ask questions. If no one at TRWA knows the answer, we may be able to pass you on to the right people to ask.
  4. Be a spotter. We need eyes on the ground. The Taunton River Watershed is the second largest in the state, and we want to hear from as many locations in it as possible. Watch for environmental projects in your own location that affect the watershed. Read the local press. We like unusual pictures and stories of any type too. You never know when you are going to come across an endangered or threatened species.
  5. Join your town or city’s conservation commission or related local group and pass along information about issues you think may concern us.

For all of these email  trwastaff@savethetaunton.org with your pictures, questions and information. Or call 508-828-1101. Someone will get back to you within a few days.

Steve says, “My interest comes from knowing how polluted the Taunton River and many of its tributaries were in the past and seeing the benefit of the cleanup of other once polluted rivers and estuaries like Boston Harbor and the Androscoggin and Presumpscot Rivers. I’d like to see those benefits realized in the Taunton River Watershed.”

He is working hard to make sure TRWA’s progress is well documented. Due to COVID, 2020, water testing was cancelled. However, past results are documented here:


Steve does more for TRWA than water testing. He is the eyes and ears of the advocacy program. He shares information with the board. He attends meetings and represents TRWA at events. Presently he is following efforts to strengthen Massachusetts drought regulations. He is the secretary/clerk, meticulous with his notes, and he is not afraid to take on mundane chores. He and his wife Lucille cleaned and organized the office when TRWA moved in.

Here is what the TRWA board says about him.

Carol Traverse, office manager, “Steve is amazing.  He is so well organized about everything he does.  I’m forever grateful to him and Lucille for cleaning and organizing the TRWA office.  And he is an incredibly kind and understanding person which makes him easy to work with–a perfect fit for the Water Quality Coordinator. He is TRWA’S clerk/secretary who keeps track of everything which is not an easy task.”

Dick Shafer, treasurer: “Steve has been an invaluable volunteer for TRWA, not only for being Secretary, but also leading and training the Water Quality Monitoring program volunteers with Alex Houtzager.  His career at the EPA has also provided us with a knowledgeable response to environmental issues that arise in the watershed and strengthens our advocacy positions on the Clean Water Act”.

Craig Heffernan, vice president: “Steve was one of the first members of TRWA I met when I went to the water quality training. I was lucky to be teamed up with him to do water testing. Learning that Steve was retired from the EPA was particularly great for me because I could ask all the questions about water related conservation. Steve has a great wealth of knowledge of water conservation and protection in the watershed including having the information and experience with wastewater treatment facilities. He is a patient teacher, updating the board on related improvements and active ongoings within the watershed. As secretary he takes diligent notes of the minutes for each board meeting as well as detailed results for the water quality testing each month. Steve is a wonderful asset of TRWA and one of the many reasons why I want to continue as a volunteer for TRWA.”

Sally Spooner, volunteer Facebook/Website writer and photographer: “I can’t say enough about Steve and the kind of knowledge he is sharing with us. Our audience is hungry to learn, and his posts are always popular.  As a TRWA volunteer whose job includes distilling Steve’s extensive scientific knowledge into language everyday people understand, I appreciate his patience. We often speak in different languages, and he is a willing translator. Without the patience of people like Steve, we would be left out of learning about clean water, what it takes to make it that way and what it takes to keep it that way.

TRWA to Highlight Advocacy Work in 2021

Steve Silva Water Quality TestingA Victory for the Scenic Taunton River

The advocacy work TRWA and other similar organizations do is heroic and essential to our future. You will be seeing more about TRWA’s environmental advocacy on the website and on our Facebook page this year. And we are asking for your help.

TRWA is off to a highly active 2021 start. Advocacy needs are vast, and TRWA always welcomes new and repeat volunteers who want to work indoors or outside. The more volunteers we have, the better we can do – and the better the environment will be.

Below are some of the recent things TRWA has done or has supported. If you have worked in conservation or in the environmental field we can always use a few more people even if it’s 2 just hours a month. We also need residents in any of our 43 towns to be a spotter for environmental news or attend meetings in the area.

Here is a sampling of TRWA’s support work:

On the web site Steve Silva, TRWA’s secretary and head of the Water Quality Monitoring program, has posted TRWA’s support for rapid approval of upgrading the Taunton Wastewater Treatment facility plus supporting documents. https://savethetaunton.org/2020/11/25/trwa-submits-comments-requesting-rapid-approval-of-taunton-wwtf-upgrade-plans

TWRA is strongly supporting the adoption of changes to the wastewater management act supported by Massachusetts Rivers Alliance to preserve water in the droughts we may experience more frequently. https://www.massriversalliance.org/post/dep-proposing-regulatory-changes-to-water-management-act-to-conserve-water-during-drought.

The next Water Management Stakeholder Group meeting is Thursday, February 25 at 1 PM, and is open to the public. We will keep you posted about this event. The current Massachusetts current drought management plan is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/massachusetts-drought-management-plan/download

TRWA supported Bill H 4921 which was signed into law this January. This bill requires that cities and towns send notifications, at minimum, email or text alerts to residents and watershed groups (who have requested inclusion on notification lists) if sewage or industrial waste has been or is being discharged in their area.

TRWA works closely with many agencies and organizations including the Department of


Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Mass Division of Fish and Wildlife, Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Bristol County Agricultural School, Bridgewater University, Environmental Protection AgencyRegion 1, MassDEP,  Mass Audubon, Save the Bay, the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, Wildlands Trust, the Nature Conservancy and Massachusetts Rivers Alliance. Working closely can involve attending meetings, writing letters of support, and in general supporting each other’s work.

Volunteer of the Month – Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan

When you think about Joe, you think of the word steady.

Joe Callahan, TRWA’s incoming president and past president, knows a thing or two about water.

Recreationally, he has done white water rafting, hiking, kayaking and trout fishing here and in the Grand Tetons, the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.  

Study and analysis of water became his career. He is an avid volunteer for its protection.

A co-op job at Northeastern headed him away from his anticipated career as a lawyer into environmental work at the EPA and at National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

He is a volunteer who just can’t say no. In addition to being TRWA’s incoming president, he is a Taunton River Wild and Scenic Board member, and Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) representative for Berkley and its Finance and Personnel Committees. He also serves as a member of the Joint Transportation Planning Group.

He is looking forward to a retirement although it’s still a few years away, because he has “lots in his future.” Right now, his busy life has left two brand new fishing poles sitting unused.

TRWA needs people like Joe more than ever to maintain and expand its core mission in environmental advocacy.  If you would join with Joe and other hardworking volunteers, please volunteer here. Where it asks what your interests are, type in “I want to help give Joe time to break in those new fishing poles.”

Joe joined TRWA over twenty years ago and has been a board member for most of that time. He joined to make a difference and enjoy the remarkable assets of the Taunton River at the same time. He says, “I am an environmental consultant by trade who cares deeply for the environment in which we live. We must protect and preserve this earth, the water, the air, and the wildlife or it will not be there for future generations.  I feel each of us has a duty to `do a part in whatever small way we can.”

Saying he is an environmental consultant is typical of Joe’s style of quiet understatement about himself.

He is a senior project manager at ​Environmental Strategies & Management (ES&M). ​He has nearly 30 years of experience in the environmental industry.  He is a Massachusetts Licensed Site Professional (LSP #7936), a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and a Toxics Use Reduction Planner (TURP).  At ES&M he is a Senior Project Manager for environmental assessment and remediation projects for major petroleum (both retail and terminal sites), industrial, and utility customers at sites throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  He manages several projects that involve wetlands permitting and storm-water management.

He says, “When I first joined TRWA, our offices were in a small room in an old mill building in Bridgewater. We’ve come a long way since then and in partnership with DCR, the Massachusetts department of Conservation and Recreation, we now have our offices in a beautiful building at Sweets Knoll State Park in Dighton.”  The part he isn’t mentioning is that he was instrumental in establishing the partnership and procuring the building. He continues “There were dedicated people with TRWA when I first joined as there are now. They provide a strong voice for the protection and preservation of the Wild and Scenic Taunton River and its watershed.”

Two other TRWA veterans have much to say in praise of him.

Steve Silva is TRWA’s director of the water quality monitoring program. Volunteering for a monitoring team is an attractive opportunity for environmental advocacy as long as Covid regulations permit it in 2021. This is what he says.

“Joe is an unselfish champion for the Taunton river watershed and a great choice for November volunteer of the month. I joined TRWA as a sampling volunteer in 2014 and became a Board member in 2015 where I first had the pleasure of meeting Joe. Joe is an avid kayaker and environmentalist who is an unselfish champion for the Taunton River. He has always stepped up.

His engineering technical knowledge, common sense, and knowledge of the watershed and the challenges facing it from rapid growth to climate change have been invaluable to the efforts of each group he helps.”

Jen O’Keefe, a longtime TRWA volunteer, avid kayaker, member of the terrapin team and calendar publisher may have said it best.

“Joe’s not looking for a stage, he’s looking for what’s best for the river.  And indeed, his quiet professionalism has been a mainstay of the TRWA’s board for many years, keeping things going when the going gets tough.

When you sit across from Joe at a meeting, you have no clue that this quiet and reserved person absolutely loves being outside and on the river. It’s something that you really only see if you happen to be on a paddling trip with him. He was instrumental in keeping things going when the TRWA made the move from Boyden to Sweets Knoll. When you think about Joe, you think of the word steady – because his work, whether it is with advocating for the river or for organizing a paddling trip or the annual meeting, while not flashy, is vital and his skills as a project planner are often all on display as he helps out with whatever project or educational opportunity the TRWA is organizing. He will be stepping up again to president this fall, and the watershed will once again benefit by having someone with his skills and heart giving direction to the TRWA’s work.”

~ by Sally Spooner

Volunteer of the Month – Carol Traverse

Carol Traverse is TRWA’s lynchpin.
She is the volunteer office manager. She has been with TRWA for fifteen years, and she is the person everyone turns to answer questions. “Carol, what do you think?” “Carol, do you remember when……?” “Carol, do you know what we did with…………?” And she either knows the answer or, in her patient way, helps to find it.She is quiet about her work and her achievements. There is no plaque above her desk to show that she received the Arthur Cleveland Bent Award from the Taunton Conservation Commission for her long-term contributions to environmental work. TRWA is not her only volunteer work. She has also spent 25 years as the treasurer of Friends of the Boyden.

You will learn from others that she is the glue that holds TRWA together. And how highly her judgement is valued. Our board and volunteers say it the best:

From Jen O’Keefe:
Carol likes to get things done! She cares about the environment and the community we live in, and you will find she has made this small corner of the world a better place in her steady, quiet, understated way. She volunteered for 4H, she worked for the City of Taunton. She still continues to volunteer for the Friends of Boyden and still continues to volunteer at the TRWA even after her paid position was eliminated. Her accumulated experience running events for the public and for kids is a tremendous asset to the TRWA.

A hidden talent I discovered eleven years ago when I started volunteering with the TRWA and came up with this crazy idea of a photo contest is that she has an impeccable eye for a good photograph. Carol has been a mainstay of our volunteer effort with the calendar contest. 

Ms. Terrapin, the TRWA office mascot, adores her.

And Carol cares deeply about her family and she’s a great friend.”

From Steve Silva:
Carol is the institutional memory for the Taunton River Watershed Alliance. When an issue or question arises, Carol is always one of the first to weigh in with valuable information and insight.

She does an outstanding job managing our office and records, keeping the operation on track. She is a stalwart champion for the environment using her time and talent to advance TRWA’s environmental protection efforts and promote responsible stewardship of our precious and irreplaceable water resources.”

From Craig Heffernan:
Carol does the hard work behind the scenes that’s often overlooked. She is very patient, knowledgeable and experienced about the issues facing the watershed. She is a determined volunteer and helps to keep the office, emails and books up to date. TRWA is fortunate to have her as a board member.”

Monica Bentley, board member and director of the kayaking program:
I always come away learning something new when I talk with Carol. She’s always got the answers whether it’s about something that happened years ago, who did what or anything to do with the office.”

Joe Callahan, board member and past president:
Carol is a tremendous asset to TRWA and continues to do incredible voluntary work for the organization since she’s joined the Board.”

Nancy Durfee, TRWA board member:
It is an honor to recognize Carol as the TRWA October 2020 Volunteer of the Month. Volunteers are the heart and soul of TRWA, and she has delivered countless hours of dedication to TRWA.

What a great example Carol has been. A true leader, with a “can do” attitude, a team spirit, and the willingness to go above-and-beyond.”

Dick Shafer, treasurer and past president:
We were delighted that Carol agreed to become the TRWA Office Manager part time after she retired from working for the City. She continues to be the “glue” of our growing grassroots organization, now operating from our new office at Sweets Knoll State Park!”

Volunteer of the Month – Jen O’Keefe

Jen O’Keefe (L) with the terrapin team.

Jen O’Keefe is a TRWA backbone volunteer.

Like so many others she joined because of one activity and then went on to others. In each, she is passing on her environmental passion and skills to children and young people who must have them to protect our future.

She says, “I joined the TRWA because I went on four or five kayak trips run by Canoe Passage Outfitters and after the 4th or 5th realized, “Hey these people like the same things I do. They have the same values I have and do work I like to see done, let’s join.

I am a 2nd generation water tester. My father tested water for the Westport River Watershed Association on the East Branch of the Westport River for 7 years. So, after paddling with the TRWA sponsored trips, meeting folks, and then, upon learning they too water tested, I joined and became a water quality monitor.

As a water tester like her father, she has enlisted the help of her children with hopes that they will carry on this family tradition.

Jen also founded and publishes the TRWA tide calendar and conducted its photography contest for its first ten years. For 2021 she has encouraged a new set of volunteers to keep the calendar going as she tries to step back a little. One of the contest’s goals has been to encourage young people to enter the contest.

Jen is also involved in the terrapin study. She is a natural teacher. This year TRWA marked six terrapin nests. As the eggs hatched Jen taught children who spotted hatchlings to pick them up carefully and take them to be weighed and measured. After the weigh in they excitedly, gently, and carefully, carried them back to their native habitat and watched as they disappeared.

Jen is also one of the caretakers of TRWA’s own office terrapin. This terrapin can no longer live in the wild and may someday become TRWA’s traveling ambassador, visiting classrooms and other locations. Although this was Impossible in 2020, we have hopes that it will happen sometime in 2021.

If, like Jen, you share values with TRWA and have fun things you want to do and/or work you would like to see done, please join us or become a volunteer yourself. We’d be happy to have you on board.
~Sally Spooner

Volunteer of the Month – Dick Shafer

Dick Shafer
We asked our Board members and a few volunteers to tell us why they joined TRWA. Our first volunteer is Dick Shafer.

“I attended the initial TRWA organizational meeting in 1988 led by Bill Napolitano, Kitty Doherty and others.

I joined that night as one of the founding members and have been a member ever since. I had just acquired a canoe and was interested in river trips,” says Dick Shafer, current TRWA’s Board member and Treasurer. 

It’s the “that night” feeling we hope we can convey to you when you consider joining TRWA. We are in the “‘that night” period of our environmental activism needs.

He continues, “I was completely onboard with TRWA’s support of the Clean Water Act, as well as, later, the quest to achieve the Wild and Scenic River Federal designation.

After many years as a member, Kitty convinced me to join the Board of Directors where I eventually became President for seven years and am now Treasurer.”

Saying that he joined because he was interested in river trips is an understatement, by far.  Since 1988, Dick has chaired or volunteered for many TRWA committees, activities and positions as well as, one of his proudest achievements, reviving the Taunton River Festival. Besides that, he is always ready to lend a hand.

Now, some thirty-two years after that first meeting, he still involved.  He is working on the 2021 tide calendar photo contest. He is chairing the building renovation committee. He is a member of the fund-raising committee. If the Taunton River Festival hadn’t been delayed until 2021 by Covid 19, he would be very busy with that right now.

 We need more volunteers like Dick and hope you will consider being one of them, even if you start with just one position.

He closes by saying, “We have a great team now and with the new Watershed Center a lot of great opportunities for the future.”

You can become a part of it. Our mission is to protect and restore the watershed’s natural resources for current and future generations. Join us and Become a Member or Become a Volunteer.
~Sally Spooner