TRWA hosts its 2017 Annual Meeting

The TRWA held its Annual Meeting on Saturday, November 4th, 2017.  Senator Marc Pacheco and Karl Pastore, DCR South Region Director were our guest speakers.  Also, TRWA researcher Patty Levasseur gave an update on the TRWA’s population study of the Assonet Bay Diamond Back Terrapins.  

Priscilla Chapman, David Rosa, Craig Hefferman, T.J. Torees, and Carol Traverse were elected to the TRWA’s Board of Directors.  Approved for 2018 officers were Joe Callahan, President; Priscilla Chapman, Vice President; Richard Shafer, Treasurer; and Stephen Silva, Secretary. Click here for a summary of the meeting.

TRWA’s 2017 Annual Meeting gets underway

Researcher Patty Levasseur talks about the TRWA’s Assonet Bay Diamondback Terrapin Population Study

The 2018 Calendar Contest Cover photographer, David Ennis

   

October Nutrient and Bacteria Data

The nitrate, total phosphorus and fecal coliform results for October have been added to the website’s 2017 monitoring results tracking table.

The nitrate and TP results are the results we watch most closely because these nutrients promote algae and undesirable weed growth adversely affecting water quality and the diversity of aquatic life that can thrive within our watershed. Better water quality equals more aquatic and wildlife diversity and more recreation opportunity on and along our waterways. In other words these are the water quality metrics we want to see improve by better wastewater treatment, improved stormwater management, better fertilizer practices, dam removals, stream corridor protection, and land conservation.

The latest monitoring indicates that the very high nitrate levels measured since July continued into October despite colder temperatures and somewhat higher river flows. The levels measured in the lower Three Mile and Town Rivers are still extremely high (up to 12 times the water quality goal) while many other locations ranged from 3.75 to 6.45 times the goal.

TRWA monitoring continues to shine the spotlight on the need to finish the WWTP upgrades (scheduled for completion 2020 to 2022) as required by the last round of watershed wastewater discharge permits. It demonstrates a clear need for better stormwater management (another nutrient source and a waste of groundwater/stream base flow replenishing rainwater) especially better management of stormwater from new development and redevelopment. The need for better stormwater management prompted TRWA, MassRivers and eight other watershed organizations to file a lawsuit against Scott Pruitt Administrator of EPA and EPA concerning their delay of the effective date of the already 8 year overdue 2016 stormwater permit. The delay keeps the obsolete and ineffective 2003 EPA stormwater permit in effect.

MASS RIVERS, TRWA AND EIGHT OTHER GROUPS SUE EPA OVER STORMWATER DELAY

On September 25th The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, Taunton River Watershed Alliance (TRWA), and eight other watershed groups from across the state filed suit in Boston’s federal district court asking the court to vacate EPA’s one-year delay in implementing the state’s new stormwater permit.  Joining Mass Rivers and TRWA were watershed groups representing the Connecticut; Mystic; Merrimack; Ipswich; North and South; Jones; Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord; and Neponset Rivers.

“Stormwater is the state’s number one pollution problem,” said Mass Rivers Executive Director Julia Blatt, “and this permit is a product of extensive public input as well as eight long years of negotiation among the state DEP, the EPA, and many stakeholders.  The EPA pulled the rug out from under the state’s pollution control efforts by announcing this delay two days before the effective date.”

The permit, known as the “MS4,” for small “municipal separate storm sewer systems,” regulates stormwater pollution under the federal Clean Water Act.  Issued jointly by the EPA and MassDEP, it covers 260 entities in Massachusetts, including municipalities and federal and state facilities.  Stormwater, which runs off land, roads and buildings when it rains, carries fertilizer pollution, harmful bacteria, oil, gas, toxic metals, and salt into nearby waterways.

The largest water quality problems in the Taunton River watershed are algae blooms from too much nutrients and depleted summer river flows which are both made worse by poorly managed stormwater runoff.  The obsolete 2003 EPA stormwater permit EPA’s action leaves in place is outdated, and does a poor job protecting the environment from stormwater’s problems.  The new MS4 permit has more specific conditions requiring towns to create a stormwater management plan and directs them to map their stormwater collection systems, monitor outfall pipes, and prioritize cleanup of the most pressing problems, such as the discharge of untreated sewage into nearby waterways via stormdrains.  The permit also requires public outreach, stormwater recharge, and “good housekeeping” practices such as storm drain cleaning and street sweeping as well as adoption of specific and clear local ordinances for control of stormwater from new development and redevelopment.

The environmental groups are worried that the permit could be delayed much longer than one year.  This permit was eight years in the making and long overdue.  The groups believe further delay of the permit does not make any sense and that we need this permit for a healthy environment and safe recreation.  Click here to see the TRWA press release.

The river groups are represented by Kevin Cassidy of Earthrise Law Center and Access to Justice Fellow Irene C. Freidel.  Click here to see the filed complaint.

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.