TRWA Submits Comments Requesting Rapid Approval of Taunton WWTF Upgrade Plans

On November 23, 2020 TRWA submitted comments strongly supporting the upgrade of the Taunton Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF). We are requesting rapid approval of the Final Environmental Impact report (FEIR) and loan assistance requests by the City so that the phase 1 total nitrogen (TN) removal schedule of June 30, 2022 is achieved. This date is similar to the scheduled TN removal completion dates for Brockton (4/01/2022) and Bridgewater (5/01/2022).

MassDEP continuous monitoring at two locations in Mount Hope Bay documents summer algae blooms and dissolved oxygen criteria violations which these upgrades are designed to reduce. With completion of the Taunton upgrade 5 watershed WWTFs will have been upgraded for TN removal by the end of June 2022 (Taunton WWTF and all the plants upstream).

In light of the well documented water quality problems caused by nitrogen over-enrichment in the Taunton river estuary, TRWA also strongly requests that EPA and MassDEP re-issue the other 2 remaining watershed WWTFs, Somerset (12 years overdue) and Fall River (15 years overdue) with TN effluent limitations as soon as possible. The TN wasteload allocation for Somerset was included in the Taunton NPDES draft permit fact sheet. Fall River located furthest down-bay may initially be issued with intermediate level TN limits and upgraded with a flexible plant design to allow for modification as needed based on additional bay monitoring. The schedule for Fall River should be integrated with their combined sewer overflow abatement effort so that the most environmentally beneficial work is completed first.

Re-issuance of the Somerset and Fall River permits is necessary to further reduce summer algae blooms and dissolved oxygen criteria violations, achieve the full benefit of the 5 WWTF TN removal upgrades scheduled by end of June 2022 and make the Taunton River watershed more resilient to climate change. Over the months ahead TRWA is planning to petition EPA and MassDEP as well as federal and state political leaders to join us in requesting that these long expired and obsolete CWA permits be replaced. We will be reaching out to our membership and other environmental groups for help with this effort.

A copy of TRWA’s comments may be found at this link.

TRWA Sends Letter to MEPA Supporting Town River Dam Removal

TRWA has sent a letter to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA) supporting removal of the aging Town River Dam in Bridgewater as soon as possible. In its comments TRWA pointed out that with complete deconstruction and removal of the dam, approximately two hundred feet of river channel upstream would be restored to a stream that supports fish passage. The proposed project would reconnect  ten miles of riverine habitat and restore spawning access to Lake Nippenicket. Water quality would improve as a result of the restoration of a free-flowing river.  The proposed project would also eliminate the risk of dam failure and restore stream bank habitat.

Earth Day and Covid-19

Wednesday, April 22, is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and it’s safe to say no one expected we’d be celebrating it indoors during a planet-wide pandemic. In 1970, more than 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day. Once public health authorities say its safe to do so TRWA will resume its many free public events in the watershed. Until then we appreciate the efforts our members are making to follow CDC guidelines and keep each other safe. Thank you for your support of TRWA and each other through this difficult time.

TRWA Takes Strong Stand Opposing Proposed Restaurant on the Shoreline of Lake Nippenicket in Bridgewater

In a letter dated March 14, 2020 the Taunton River Watershed Alliance (TRWA) took a strong position urging the Bridgewater Planning Board to deny a request from Claremont Corporation to amend zoning laws and waive resource area protections on a parcel of land located on the shoreline of Lake Nippenicket in order to allow construction of a restaurant.

TRWA after hearing from many residents of Bridgewater carefully reviewed the proposal and concluded the proposal affects not only our members who are residents of Bridgewater, but the mission of TRWA, which is to protect and restore the watershed’s natural resources for current and future generations, to build and support responsible stewardship of our fragile ecosystems, water quality, forests, farmland, and wetlands; provide opportunities for people to enjoy the river and the watershed’s open space; and be a voice for threatened land and water resources.

TRWA opposes this request because the proposed construction  would harm the water quality in Lake Nippenicket[1] and the ecological communities that inhabit the site and surrounding area. These impacts would occur as a result of earth removal and other work during construction, the rendering of a large portion of the property to impermeable surface, and the discharge of polluted stormwater runoff after the project is completed. Not to mention, this project sets a dangerous precedent for other future potential developments that may be planned within sensitive areas within the Town.

TRWA would like to thank the Bridgewater residents who called this matter to our attention and the many residents who attended the Bridgewater Planning Board Meeting to express their concern about the proposed zoning change.

For more information see our comment letter.

[1] Eutrophication has been recognized as a serious concern in Lake Nippenicket due to its shallow depths.

March 28th Sampler Training Cancelled; TRWA Monitoring Program Suspended

In order to protect our volunteers and their families and following the direction of public health authorities, TRWA is cancelling the March 28th TRWA new and existing volunteer sampler training session we had previously scheduled. We are also suspending our citizen monitoring program which was planned to start on April 14th until further notice.

When we are advised by government and public health authorities that it is safe to do so we will reschedule our training session. Similarly when information from public health authorities and our partners at Veolia indicate that it is safe to do so we will resume our monthly sampling program.

Do not hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions.

CANCELLED – TO BE RE-SCHEDULED – TRWA Volunteer Monitoring Training Saturday, March 28, 2020, 9:30 AM to Noon

CANCELLED – NEW DATE TO BE ANNOUNCED WHEN AVAILABLE

Come help us make sure our water stays clean!

The Taunton River Watershed Alliance has done water quality testing in the Taunton River and its tributaries since its inception in 1988. The information gathered shows that ongoing efforts to clean up the river are necessary and effective. Each bucket of water pulled up to be tested can have national implications. It already has and must be continued to keep our water clean and our 43 communities informed and accountable.

TRWA currently has 20 sample collection volunteers who work in 10 teams collecting samples from 20 locations from Berkley to Bridgewater the second Tuesday morning of each month from April through October. Volunteers work in teams of 2 to 3 people (to provide back-up coverage for vacations etc.) and each team collects samples from 2 or 3 locations bringing samples back to the Taunton wastewater treatment plant by 8:30 am.

No technical training or education is required just a desire to be part of an important effort with good people who want to improve local water quality. We provide the training, pair new people with folks who are veterans, and explain what the results mean and why they are important.

We are looking for new volunteers to replace some samplers who have moved out of the area, can no-longer volunteer, and to make some of our teams a little bigger. Anyone who thinks they may be interested in becoming one of our guardians of the river should come to our training session on Saturday morning, March 28, 2020, 9:30am – Noon at TRWA’s River Center, Sweets Knoll State Park, 1387 Somerset Avenue, Dighton, MA. There is a lot of information about the monitoring program on the TRWA website. People with questions may also send an email to the volunteer monitoring program coordinator Steve Silva at steve124@gmail.com.

If you know anyone who might be interested in helping us with this effort (friends, neighbors etc.) please invite them to come to the training with you. There is no obligation to volunteer if you come. We will have coffee, juice and some refreshments. You will have a chance to meet our diamond back terrapin (a threatened brackish water turtle) mascot who we have adopted because she can’t be returned to the wild and visit scenic Sweets Knoll State Park.

We are also looking for sponsors for this program so we can continue to pay for the water testing. For more information view our sponsorship sheet or the website.

Read more about the program

October Nitrate, Total Phosphorus and Enterococci Bacteria Results

The October nitrate, total phosphorus, and enterococci results are back from our contract lab and have also been added to the website monitoring data page. These are the last results for the 2019 monitoring season which runs from April through October so we can look at not only the month of October but the year as a whole.

The October results for 2019 are a little worse than October 2018 but looking at the May to October averages for both years they are very similar. Both 2018 and 2019 were relatively similar, wet years providing high wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) dilution. Results for nitrate our most critical water quality parameter because of the impact of excess nitrogen on the ecology of the estuarine portion of the river and Mount Hope Bay look better in 2019 and 2018 (two recent wet years) than 2017 and 2016 (two dry, low river flow years) because of the higher river flow dilution.

We see the highest levels in the upper watershed (locations MAT-01, TWH-01, and CHE-01) reflecting the fact that Brockton and Bridgewater have not completed required upgrades to remove nitrogen yet. Brockton and Bridgewater are scheduled to remove nitrogen in April and May of 2022 respectively. Despite looking better than the more typical dryer summers of 2016 and 2017 the nitrogen levels in the upper watershed were still 3 to 4 times what they should be and levels in the lower river were approximately 1.5 times the EPA and MassDEP water quality criteria targets established for the Taunton River.

A good news story is that the Nemasket River had low nitrate levels all year reflecting the completion of the upgrade of the Middleboro wastewater treatment plant early last year. The Mansfield/Norton/Foxboro nitrogen removal upgrade is scheduled to go on line in early 2020 which should help the Three Mile River.

The most critical upgrades we are looking forward to in order to lower nitrogen levels throughout the river are Taunton, Brockton, and Bridgewater which are required to remove nitrogen by 2022. We are hoping EPA and MassDEP will assure Taunton, Brockton, and Bridgewater comply with their permit schedules to complete their upgrades by 2022 and resume Clean Water Act permitting in the Taunton River watershed by issuing the remaining two major permits Somerset and Fall River with WWTP upgrade schedules.

As mentioned last month we are carefully watching the new enterococci bacteria testing results. As we accumulate more data on this parameter, we will get a better idea of seasonal fluctuations and potential sources.

In a final piece of monitoring news TRWA received MassDEP approval of its Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) on October 2, 2019. TRWA is one of the few citizens volunteer monitoring programs with an approved QAPP which means the Commonwealth can use our data in development of the biennial 303(d) list of Impaired Waters developed by all states every even year pursuant to the Clean Water Act.

We appreciate the hard work and dedication of our volunteers and the support of our TRWA members and donors who make this effort possible!

September nitrate, total phosphorus, and enterococci results

The September nitrate, total phosphorus, and enterococci results have been added to the website.

The results for nitrate our most critical water quality parameter because of the impact of excess nitrogen on the ecology of the estuarine portion of the river and Mount Hope Bay look better than 2018 and much better than 2017 and 2016 (two low river flow years). We see the highest levels in the upper watershed (locations MAT-01, TWH-01, and CHE-01) reflecting the fact that Brockton and Bridgewater have not completed required upgrades to remove nitrogen yet. Brockton and Bridgewater are scheduled to remove nitrogen in April and May of 2022 respectively. Despite looking better than last year the nitrogen levels in he upper watershed are still 3 to 4 times what they should be to protect downstream waters.

The good news story in the Nemasket River continues. Compared to 2017, nitrate levels in the Nemasket River are low this year (and most of last year) likely reflecting the completion of the upgrade of the Middleboro wastewater treatment plant early last year. The Mansfield/Norton/Foxboro nitrogen removal upgrade is scheduled to go on line in early 2020. We are looking forward to lower nitrogen levels throughout the river when Taunton, Brockton, and Bridgewater are all removing nitrogen by 2022. We are hoping EPA and MassDEP will resume Clean Water Act permitting in the Taunton River watershed soon so the remaining two major permits Somerset and Fall River will be reissued with upgrade schedules.

As mentioned last month we are carefully watching the new enterococci bacteria testing results. Levels in August and September were mostly lower than in May through July potentially as a results of lower stormwater contributions of bacteria (from contaminated rainwater runoff). In August and September half of our samples still exceeded the state criteria for enterococci bacteria but the magnitude of the violations was lower than May through July except for a September sample at Haywood St. from the Town River in Bridgewater. As we accumulate more data on this parameter, we will get a better idea of seasonal fluctuations and potential sources.

August Nitrate, Total Phosphorus, and Enterococci Results

The August nitrate, total phosphorus, and enterococci results have been added to the website. The results for nitrate our most critical water quality parameter because of the impact of excess nitrogen on the ecology of the estuarine portion of the river and Mount Hope Bay look comparable to 2018 and better than 2017 and 2016 (two low river flow years). We see the highest levels in the upper watershed (locations MAT-01, TWH-01, and CHE-01) reflecting the fact that Brockton and Bridgewater have not completed required upgrades to remove nitrogen yet. Brockton and Bridgewater are scheduled to remove nitrogen in April and May of 2022 respectively.

A good news story is that compared to 2017, nitrate levels in the Nemasket River are low this year most likely reflecting the completion of the upgrade of the Middleboro wastewater treatment plant early last year. The Mansfield/Norton/Foxboro nitrogen removal upgrade is scheduled to go on line in early 2020. We are looking forward to lower nitrogen levels throughout the river when Taunton, Brockton, and Bridgewater are all removing nitrogen by 2022. We are hoping EPA and MassDEP will resume Clean Water Act permitting in the Taunton River watershed soon so the remaining two major permits Somerset and Fall River will be reissued with upgrade schedules.

The other results we are watching are the new enterococci bacteria testing results. Levels in August were lower than in May through July potentially as a results of lower stormwater contributions of bacteria (from contaminated rainwater runoff). In August half of our samples still exceeded the state criteria for enterococci bacteria but the magnitude of the violations was lower. As we accumulate more data on this parameter, we will get a better idea of seasonal fluctuations and potential sources.

 

July Nitrate, Total Phosphorus, and Enterococci Results

The July nitrate, total phosphorus, and enterococci results are posted in the data section of the website. In July with flows falling slightly nutrient pollution levels (nitrate and total phosphorus) are up because the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) discharges are not being diluted with as much natural river flow.

As in past years nitrates in particular are on the rise and a concern exceeding the safe estuarine levels designated by EPA and MassDEP for the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay (see levels in bold red on our spreadsheet). Fortunately the WWTPs in the watershed are under permit schedules to reduce nitrogen. Middleboro completed its upgrade in 2018 and we have seen a reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus on the Nemasket River which it discharges into. The Mansfield/Norton/Foxboro upgrade is scheduled for the end of 2019. Taunton’s phase 1 upgrade is due July 2021. Brockton is scheduled for April 2022 and Bridgewater phase 1 May 2022. Since EPA and MassDEP estimate that 2/3 of the nitrogen load to the river and estuary system is from WWTPs these upgrades are important and eagerly anticipated.

TRWA’s monitoring as well as continuous monitoring by MassDEP during 2017 and 2018 at the mouth of the Taunton River in upper Mount Hope Bay indicate that these upgrades are essential.

The other interesting element of our July results is the frequency of enterococci bacteria water quality criteria violations being detected using the MassDEP’s new indicator. The magnitude of violations fell slightly in July possible because of lower stormwater flows prior to our sampling days, however violations were measured at most locations. We are very interested in seeing the levels we measure with this new indicator for the remaining three months of our sampling season.