Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dupigny-Giroux, Lesley-Ann


The North American landscape changed tremendously following the arrival of European settlers. Before European arrival, New England’s landscape was primarily forested. As Europeans moved inland from the eastern seaboard, they cleared the forest for settlement and agricultural use. Eventually the Industrial Revolution made a different kind of mark on the landscape. Starting in the late 1790s, the textile mill industry developed throughout the region. Mills were located along swift moving rivers, which later produced power when dams were created along them. Following the early 1900s mill production decreased, leading to the abandonment of many mills and their adjacent dammed mill ponds. However, the environmental changes wrought by the mill ponds still exist in New England’s landscape. Large volumes of fine sediment have since built up in some of these former mill ponds and concerns about the sediment and water quality have become widespread. Today many former textile mill rivers throughout the U.S and Europe have been tested in an attempt to determine current contamination levels and to apply appropriate strategies if necessary to reduce pollutants to acceptable levels. Little is known about water and sediment quality of the former mill ponds in Scituate, Rhode Island. This research sought to address this problem by conducting trace metal testing of two mill ponds in the Scituate River Watershed: Peabody Pond and Jordon Pond. Results revealed that both ponds contain pollutants from present and past sources, but that contemporary land use practices may be the most harmful to water and sediment quality. Existing mill metal piping left on the landscape and present-day motorways and urban runoff contain large quantities of suspended solids such as copper, lead and zinc with lead showing the highest concentration levels of all metals tested. This research demonstrates that our past landscape activities, specifically New England’s historic textile production, still influences present environmental conditions, and that as human activities on the landscape change, so do threats to environmental quality.