Film explores Merrimack River history, conservation efforts

The Merrimack: River at Risk Premieres July 23 on NHPBS

A river at sunset winds past a former mill building in Lowell.

The Merrimack River flows through Lowell, Massachusetts.(Photo: Jerry Monkman)

By Heather Alterisio

A new documentary premiering at the end of July, "Merrimack: The River at Risk," explores the rich history of the Merrimack River and its watershed, the threats against it, and efforts to fight pollutants in it by conserving the forests around it.

The film, which features communities from New Hampshire to Newburyport, is a collaboration between the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and conservation photographer and filmmaker Jerry Monkman.

Jack Savage, president of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and producer of the documentary, said the Merrimack River can "become a little invisible" to residents of New Hampshire and Massachusetts who see it every day and might not acknowledge all it provides.

"For many of us, we don't even conceptually realize or understand that this is a very long and major waterway," Savage said, citing its many uses from providing drinking water to providing water power at mills in Manchester, New Hampshire, and Lowell.

"It's not just an environmental issue; it's an economic issue," he said.

The river, which was the birthplace for the Industrial Revolution and become heavily polluted because of it, has been cleaned up considerably over the last 50 years due to the Clean Water Act of 1972.

In 2016, however, the river was named as one of the nation's top 10 most endangered rivers by the U.S. Forest Service due to threats relating to a growing number of people and businesses along its banks and related pollutants affecting its water quality.

Why is the Merrimack at risk? Can we save it? Find out as the film premieres on Thursday, July 23 on New Hampshire PBS, Channel 11, and again on New Hampshire PBS Explore Channel 11. 2 (over-the-air) and 11/801 Comcast on Saturday, July 25 at 9 p.m. For those out of state, the premiere can be watched online at Learn more:

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