August Nutrient Samples In – All Locations Sampled

The August nitrate, total phosphorus, and fecal coliform sampling results have been added to our tracking table and the Water Quality Monitoring Program page of the website.

The results for nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) the pollutants that cause algae blooms and excess aquatic weed growth are worse (higher) than last month. Nitrogen in particular is many times higher than any reasonable instream water quality criterion would allow and many times our nitrate target for concern. Algae blooms and excessive plant growth is currently evident throughout the watershed.

This underscores the need for the wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the watershed to continue to make progress on their permit implementation schedules for nutrient reduction and for reductions from other sources such as golf courses, agriculture (including cow and horse farms), residential/commercial lawn fertilizer application and stormwater runoff.

EPA and MassDEP should also issue the long overdue two remaining major municipal WWTP permits in the watershed Somerset (8+ years overdue) and Fall River (11+ years overdue) with appropriate nutrient limitations and implementation schedules as well as implement (make effective) the new stormwater (a.k.a. MS4 permit) which is 9+ years overdue.

July Sampling Results In

The July sampling results are in and available at the Water Quality Monitoring Tab above (click on the sample bottles picture on the monitoring program home page).  While not as bad as last year’s dry year we are seeing nitrate values 2 to 3 times the water quality target value of 0.4 mg/l.  This underscores the need for wastewater treatment plants to continue with their programs to upgrade the plants to remove nitrogen and for municipalities, state agencies, and the public to identify ways to control nonpoint (a.k.a. non-wastewater treatment plant) sources of nitrogen.

TRWA Sampling Volunteers Score Another Complete Data Set For May

The TRWA Sampling Volunteers collected another complete data set from all 19 monitoring locations in May.  The results to date for 2017 as well as last year’s results may be found on the Water Quality Monitoring tab.
 

Spring due to cold water and high flows generally is the time of year with the highest water quality.  In May the rivers exceeded the nitrate level of concern by a small amount at three locations and a more significant amount at the Matfield River location.  The fact that high flows didn’t cause bacteria problems is very good news reflecting favorably on the hard work municipalities have been doing on sewer system integrity the last few years.  The fact that despite high flows nitrate was exceeded or borderline in so many locations underscores the need for the wastewater treatment plant upgrades currently underway at all  upper watershed wastewater treatment plants to protect the river and estuary during low flow summer conditions.

From June through October we will want to see how pollution levels change as flow in the rivers decrease and water temperature rises.  After two years of drought we are hoping this years summer flows will be more typical.  We will also be looking to document any algae blooms.  If you see a bloom take a picture with your cameras or smart phones and email it to TRWA (director@savethetaunton.org) along with the date, time, and location it was taken.  You can be a Guardian of the Taunton River like our sampling team by documenting problems you see.

TRWA’s next sampling day is Tuesday, June 13, 2017 (second Tuesday of each month). 

TRWA Monthly Volunteer Sampling Began April 11th

On Tuesday April 11th TRWA began the 2017 sampling season. Almost 30 trained volunteers sampled all 19 watershed sampling locations. Despite seasonal high flows and dilution we found elevated nitrogen levels at seven locations in April although levels were substantially lower than the peaks measured during last summer’s drought.  To see our sampling results for 2017 and 2016 click on the Water Quality Monitoring tab at the top of the home page and then the picture of the sample bottles.

The Taunton River carries a high percentage of treated wastewater during the summer. Water quality and aquatic life diversity has been improving with each improvement in treatment plant effluent quality and sewer system integrity. Fortunately all the major treatment plants in the watershed except Somerset and Fall River whose permits have not been reissued yet are scheduled to remove significant amounts of nitrogen within the next 5 years. Removal of this nitrogen load will result in the next leap in ecological, recreational and economic benefit for the citizens of the watershed. As demonstrated so clearly by the successful Boston Harbor clean up; clean water not only benefits fish and wildlife but people and the economy as well.

The clean up of the Charles River and Boston Harbor now the cleanest urban river and harbor in the nation resulted in a million dollar a year fishing industry, tourism, beach openings, property value growth, and spurred unprecedented economic opportunity in the Boston Seaport District. We are fortunate to be poised to make similar progress in Mount Hope Bay and the Taunton River within the next half dozen years once the treatment plants in the watershed achieve their nitrogen removal targets. Many years ago Mount Hope Bay was once famous for its extremely productive and valuable flounder fishery. TRWA volunteer sampler efforts are supporting and monitoring this progress.

 

2016 Water Quality Report Card Issued

TRWA issued its 2016 Water Quality Report Card. TRWA monitors 19 locations along the Taunton River and its tributaries. A major concern for the watershed is nutrient pollution from nitrogen. Nitrogen levels in the main stem are often 2-5 times recommended levels and much higher in tributary streams. High nutrient levels fuel algae and rooted aquatic plant blooms limiting biodiversity in the watershed. Currently about 66% of the nitrogen load comes from wastewater treatment plants which are being required to upgrade to remove excessive nitrogen loads from their discharges over the next five years.

Adult Sea Lamprey Sighting on the Nemasket

This past May, a dead adult sea lamprey was observed at Oliver Mill Park in Middleborough. The fish had migrated up the river to spawn on the Nemasket and having completed its life cycle, died and was washed up on the banks. It was 30” long.

sea_lamprey_01

There are two lamprey species native to Massachusetts waters, the American Brook Lampry (Lethenteron appendix) (which is a threatened population in the state) and the Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus).

The fellow found on the Nemasket was a Sea lamprey with its typical yellow spawning pigmentation. Sea lampreys are anadromous, they migrate from the ocean to freshwater to spawn. Sea Lampreys, when they enter the fresh water rivers to spawn, stop feeding, as all their energies are focused on reproduction, so they are not a threat to inland fisheries (like in the Great Lakes region, where Sea Lamprey predation have had a huge impact on restoring local fisheries.) Young lamprey can remain in freshwater for to five years living on the bottom as filter feeders. It is only in maturity, that the lamprey become parasitic, returning to the ocean and live for two years feeding off of other fish species fluids and tissues before returning to fresh water systems to spawn and then die.

There have been some studies of the Sea Lamprey populations in the Connecticut River Watershed. The fact that Sea Lampreys are present in the Taunton River watershed is an indication of the river system’s improving health.sea_lamprey_02

Link to Mass Div. of Fisheries & Wildlife fact sheets on Sea Lamprey:

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/fish-wildlife-plants/fish/petromyzon-marinus-2015.pdf

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dfg/dfw/fish-wildlife-plants/fish/sea-lamprey-a-migratory-fish-in-the-connecticut-river-.html

Diamondback Terrapin Study

terrapin_study_02The TRWA is pleased to announce it will be funding a technician to formally investigate the Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemy terrapin) population of Assonet Bay located in Southern Massachusetts. This population and its nesting beach have been documented for several years, but no rigorous studies have been conducted to determine and record the abundance, sex ratio, or age structure of this population. Such a study would provide crucial information for conservation and management of this, and other populations of state threatened species. The goal of this study will be to provide a comprehensive research report that can be shared with conservation partners and set up the

terrapin_studybasis for long term study of survivorship and site fidelity. The study will involve the use of floated hoop traps, which were used successfully in the 2015 Allens Pond (Westport) terrapin survey. Diamond Back Terrapins are found along the east coast and are Massachusett’s only brackish water turtle species. They are listed as threatened on the State’s Natural Heritage Endangered Species list. Watch our site for more information on this study