Roger Frymire

Retired for 20 years, Roger started down the slippery slope of watershed volunteering after borrowing – for 4 years – a friend’s canoe. Now armed with a kayak, Roger’s dedication to rivers is inspiring.

Trained by the Charles River Watershed Association, and supplied with a limited amount of bacterial sample analyses in their lab, Roger did extensive research on the location and ownership of suspect outfall pipes, then scoured the shorelines by kayak using sight, sound, and smell to locate flowing pipes to sample. On the Charles to the Mystic Watershed and more recently to the Merrimack, he has taken well over 2000 water samples for fecal bacteria enumeration – identifying over 100 outfalls with sewage contamination. Along the way, I have also found and reported multiple water main leaks and natural gas leaks.

Roger’s work has received national recognition: from front page and multiple page articles in the Boston Globe and Herald newspapers, to a ‘Hellraiser’ article in Mother Jones magazine, a sidebar in Paddler Magazine, an NPR radio segment, a CBS Channel 4 July 4th fireworks segment on Local Heroes, and many community newsweekly and nonprofit publication articles. Throughout, Roger has tried to keep the focus on the watersheds instead of personality, and to give plaudits and credit to those communities working hard to find and fix the sources of problems identified. The first enforcement person he worked closely with at EPA gifted him the nick-name: “The Mad Kayaker,” a label he encouraged because it allows writers a memorable hook to get people interested in an otherwise often disgusting story.

Roger’s most recent “hobby” – now almost complete – is to eradicate invasive Water Chestnuts from a Mystic sub-watershed by hand-pulling. Originally over 5 acres and tens of tons is now just a couple of hundred plants- under 100 pounds yearly, and continuing to drop. His new project is cyanobacterial monitoring with species identification, cell density enumeration, and toxin testing in both the Charles and Mystic Rivers and several ponds. His hobby has evolved into a full-time avocation, and he sees no end in sight.