July Monitoring Results In for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Bacteria

The monitoring results for TRWA’s July 12th monitoring are back from our contractor and available on the website.

Like last month in-stream levels of algae bloom generating nitrogen and phosphorus are high below Brockton, Bridgewater and Taunton due to the fact that stream dilution flows are low and these plants are still completing upgrades to remove these pollutants. The problem with nutrients and algae blooms in the watershed and Mount Hope Bay is compounded by EPA New England’s (Region 1 – Boston Office) failure to complete long over due permit renewals for Somerset and Fall River which are approaching 14 and 17 years overdue respectively. As discussed last month TRWA hopes to impress on EPA the important of it doing it’s job concerning these important permit re-issuance’s.

A bright spot in this month’s sampling results is a major reduction in bacteria levels at virtually all monitoring locations. This is good news for those using these waters for recreation.

 

June Monitoring Data for Nitrate, Phosphorus and Bacteria Shows Concerning Levels

TRWA has received the June monitoring results from our contract lab. The results indicate elevated levels of nitrate which causes algae blooms in the tidal lower river and Mount Hope Bay beginning to rise. We also saw elevated phosphorus levels downstream of the Brockton and Bridgewater wastewater treatment plants and bacteria levels exceeding the new more stringent state standard at almost all our sampling location. We anticipate that with the lower river flow and warmer temperature in July (moderate drought conditions) the results will be worse so we are looking forward too getting our July 12th sampling results soon.

Unfortunately Taunton, Brockton and Bridgewater are late finishing their treatment plant upgrades which would help our water quality. Worse yet EPA Region 1 (New England – based in Boston) which issues Massachusetts Clean Water Act permits is over 16 years late updating the Fall River treatment plant permit and over 13 years late on Somerset. TRWA and our partner organization supporting improvement of Narragansett Bay, Save the Bay headquartered in RI, hope to have discussions with EPA Region 1 to move the permit re-issuance along. If this fails we have the petition many TRWA members and watershed residents signed at the Middleborough Herring Run Festival and TRWA Taunton River Festival which we will send to the EPA Administrator in Washington and MassDEP Commissioner. We will also reach out to our federal and state legislators in both MA and RI for support.

Sign TRWA’s “Help the Herring” Petition

Thank you to all who signed TRWA’s petition at the Middleboro Herring Run Festival on Saturday, April 9th or Sunday, April 10th . There will be another opportunity to sign at the Taunton River Festival on Sunday June 12th or you can call our office and stop by to sign. Our petition asks EPA and MassDEP to reissue the last two Clean Water Act (CWA) wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) permits in the Taunton River watershed. These plants need modernizing to remove nitrogen. The juvenile Herring and Alewife need a healthy algae bloom free estuary and Mount Hope Bay to rest, grow and acclimate to seawater before continuing their journey to the ocean. The five upriver WWTPs (Middleboro, Mansfield/Norton/Foxboro Regional Plant, Brockton, Bridgewater and Taunton) have completed upgrades which remove algae bloom causing nitrogen.

The Petition is to Michael S. Regan, EPA Administrator and Martin Suuberg, MassDEP Commissioner, from the Taunton River Watershed Alliance (TRWA) urging reissuance of the long overdue Somerset and Fall River CWA permits with Effluent Limitations Needed to Protect Water Quality.

The petition requests that EPA and MassDEP issue public notices and commence the process to reissue the last two long overdue Clean Water Act (CWA) permits, Somerset (13 years and 6 months overdue) and Fall River (16 years and 4 months overdue). These obsolete treatment plants cause and contribute to algae pollution, as well as dissolved oxygen and nutrient Massachusetts water quality criteria violations in the Taunton River estuary and Mount Hope Bay. The MassDEP continuous monitoring buoys in Mount Hope Bay document algae blooms and dissolved oxygen criteria violations each summer.

The Taunton River was designated a Wild and Scenic River in 2009. The Taunton River estuary and Mount Hope Bay are part of the bi-state (MA and RI) Narragansett Bay, designated an estuary of National Significance in 1985. Because of its low gradient, lack of main stem dams and over 5,000 acres of Alewife and Herring spawning area, the Taunton River estuary and watershed supports a large diadromous fish nursery essential to the offshore commercial fishing industry.

From 2013 to 2015 the EPA and MassDEP put on public notice, and subsequently issued, five of the seven major Clean Water Act (CWA) wastewater discharge permits in the Taunton River watershed. These permits required upgrading of obsolete treatment plants and addition of nitrogen and phosphorus removal to the extent needed to meet water quality standards. In 2016 the effort was stopped before the last two permits in the watershed for Somerset and Fall River were put on notice.

Now is the time to move forward with these permits to improve this critical resource, to make it more resilient to climate change and to promote fairness to the users of the 5 previously upgraded plants. These users will not see the full environmental benefit of their environmental investment in the estuary and river until these last two plants are upgraded. An additional benefit to starting the plant upgrades now is to access any available Build Back Better funding to supplement the State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan program, which helped fund the previous five permits.

The petition may be signed at our office at Sweets Knoll State Park, Tuesday/Wednesday 9a – 4p or Thursday 10a – 4p, please call ahead (508) 828-1101. We will also have copies available to sign at the TRWA Taunton River Festival on Sunday, June 12th from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM at Weir Riverfront Park in Taunton.

Please contact our office at director@savethetaunton.org  if you have any questions.

Restart of TRWA Water Quality Monitoring Program

TRWA is pleased to announce the TRWA Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program will resume on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 this year! Existing and new volunteer monitoring training will be held Saturday, March 26, 2022 at TRWA’s Sweets Knoll State Park Office in Dighton, MA (on Rt 138 just South of the Bristol Aggie traffic light – 1387 Somerset Avenue, Dighton, MA). On March 26th we will have sign-in and an informal get acquainted and Q/ A session from 9:30am to 10:00am and the training will run from 10:00am to Noon. If you want to participate but can’t make the March 26th training date, contact the TRWA office at director@savethetaunton.org and we’ll see if a make-up day is needed.

TRWA volunteers will sample the second Tuesday of the month for the sampling season April through October (7 months). Teams take their samples from 2 or 3 locations anytime between 5:00am to 8:00am and drop them off at the Taunton WWTP lab no later than 8:30am. As we have done in the past, and as noted above the refresher sampler/new volunteer training is on the last Saturday morning of the month before sampling begins which is Saturday, March 26, 2022 this year.

During 2022 all five wastewater treatment plants up stream of Somerset are required to start removing nitrogen making this year an important one for water quality monitoring. As the veteran samplers know TRWA teams’ sample 20 locations (4 on the main stem of the Taunton River and 16 locations on tributary rivers/streams) the second Tuesday of each month during our sampling season. We have a MassDEP Quality Assurance Project Plan approved sampling program. We do 2 duplicates and 2 blanks each month (1 for every 10 samples for Nitrate, Total Phosphorus and Bacteria the most important pollutants we monitor). We do 2 duplicates (no blanks) for dissolved oxygen, and pH/TSS. TRWA monitoring is important because it documents the need for upgrading all seven major wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the watershed to remove nitrogen and for the four WWTPs in the upper freshwaters of the watershed to also remove phosphorus. It also highlights the need across the entire watershed for better stormwater controls for new and existing development to reduce bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from stormwater discharges.

We delayed the start of the sampling program last year to give our volunteers time to obtain their vaccinations. We encourage our volunteers to obtain their booster vaccinations if they have not already done so. Until we see how things are going with the virus this spring wearing a mask at the training and when dropping off samples at the Veolia lab is recommended.

I look forward to seeing you at the training session on March 26th . Our 2022 Standard Operating Procedures guide is unchanged from the 2021 on the TRWA website https://savethetaunton.org/ at the monitoring tab as well as our simple one-page sampler instructions sheet, chain of custody form, instructions for filling out sample bottle labels, Google map of sampling locations, and 2022 blank reporting forms which show in the lower section which locations/teams will collect duplicate and blank samples each month. This webpage generally has anything you might want to review concerning the sampling program.

One of the most important things we want to accomplish at the training is assure that we have teams of people with at least one veteran sampler ready to cover each sampling location. We will assign new volunteers to teams with veterans for hands on training and to ease them into the program. We always need new volunteers to replace folks who have moved away and to build up our teams to make sure we have coverage for vacations etc. If you know anyone who might like to get fresh morning air, knowledge, and be part of an important effort to save our environment, please invite them to the training.

If you are a veteran sampler and are no longer able to participate in the sampling program, please let Steve Silva (steve124@gmail.com) know to help us with planning.

 

TRWA Sends Letter Requesting Denial of Assonet Neck Pier License

On January 28, 2022 TRWA sent a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) requesting that a permit not be issued for a large private pier and dock off the southweastern tip of Assonet Neck adjacent to Conspiracy Island and between two salt marsh areas on either side. A copy of TRWA’s letter may be found at this link.

Several Berkley residents contacted TRWA expressing their concern that two treasured town icons Assonet Neck and Conspiracy Island which generations of local canoeists, kayakers, fishermen and photographers have enjoyed were being sacrificed for a 170 foot long private dock. In its letter TRWA expressed concern that this project at such a visible and historically significant location is inconsistent with the federal Wild and Scenic designation of the Taunton River. The project is in a vulnerable location facing down estuary at the confluence of the Taunton and Assonet Rivers requiring a large amount of dredging and dredge spoil disposal for foundation support structures. Use of existing dock facilities or construction upriver in an already developed and more sheltered area with no adjacent salt marshes was not considered.

Some of the other issues raised in TRWA’s letter are:

  • The project will cause erosion and adverse effects to adjacent salt marshes (the artificial bank on each side of the dock will erode and transfer energy to natural features including the adjacent salt marshes and Conspiracy Island). The increase in boat wakes in the area will damage the adjacent salt marshes and the island.
  • The area is habitat for federal and state endangered and threatened species including sturgeon, diamond back terrapin (a threatened turtle species) and eagles. TRWA has just complete its sixth year of studying the northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) which inhabits the area proposed for the project.
  • The Narragansett Bay Estuary Project and EPA in Clean Water Act permit fact sheets has described this location in the estuary as a very sensitive and productive area.
  • The last comprehensive MassDEP sponsored study of Mount Hope Bay and the Taunton River estuary cited this location as having excessive loading of nitrogen resulting in algae blooms and low dissolved oxygen. The project will exacerbate this problem due to fuel and fluid leaks from parked vehicles and watercraft.
  • The project will present a safety risk to kayakers from increased motorized boat traffic in the area.
  • Climate change/sea level rise, increasing frequency of severe storms, flood plain and velocity zone considerations do not appear to be adequately factored into the project.
  • Residents raised concerns to TRWA about harm to the Town’s cultural, historical and archeological heritage.
  • Residents raised traffic safety concerns because of narrow roads and a sharp curve at the location of the project entrance.

Anyone who would like to submit comments on this project should send them to MassDEP at the address contained in TRWA’s comment letter postmarked by the close of the comment period which is Saturday, February 5, 2022.

 

TRWA Posts 2021 Sampling Results

TRWA has posted the 2021 sampling results to the website. We want to thank all our sampling volunteers for a very successful monitoring program year after the pandemic shut down for 2020 and the first 4 months of 2021! Our team sampled all 20 sampling sites each month and collected the 2 Quality Assurance (QA) and Duplicate samples along with the QA Blanks each month! We also want to thank our partner Rick McCormack at the Veolia Taunton treatment plant for all his great help getting the program successfully restarted.

As you know river flow was very high each time we sampled resulting in a lot of pollutant dilution. Despite this we saw high nitrogen in the Matfield and Upper Taunton Rivers reflecting the fact that Brockton is not scheduled to begin to remove nitrogen until 4/1/2022. Phosphorus levels were elevated in the Town River below Bridgewater. Unfortunately while Bridgewater is scheduled to remove nitrogen by 5/1/2022 they have until 5/1/2027 to remove phosphorus. The City of Taunton is behind in their nitrogen upgrade schedule. The last we were advised, Taunton was expecting to complete Phase 1 June 2022 and Phase 2 December 2022.

As would be expected during wet weather bacteria levels were elevated but we are also using the Commonwealth’s new more sensitive bacterial indicator (enterococci) which is more sensitive than the indicator used in the past (fecal coliform). As a result of it being new we don’t have much prior year data to compare it to. Two urban rivers the Three Mile and Mill Rivers showed relatively encouraging bacteria results compared to other rivers sampled.

Again we thank our sampling team members so much for their commitment to the environment! We look forward to seeing them at our 2022 sampling refresher training on the last Saturday morning in March 2022 (3/26/2022), the month before we are planning to start the program in 2022. We currently have 19 samplers on our 9 sampling teams. We always need new samplers each year to replace people who move out of the watershed. If you are interested in joining our team, please email our office and come to the March 2022 training session. No training or experience is necessary. It is a great way to get some morning fresh air and help the environment.

August Sampling Results Posted

The August water sampling results are in and posted on the website.

Flows were high due to all the rain we have had. Higher river flows result in more dilution for the wastewater treatment plants usually resulting in lower nitrate and TP. Because Brockton, Bridgewater, and Taunton WWTPs are not scheduled to complete their plant upgrades until next year, we still saw some elevated nitrate below the Brockton plant and elevated TP levels below all three plants despite the high river flow.

High stormwater runoff which causes the high river flows tends to result in elevated bacteria levels (from street runoff) which we saw as well. We hope to get more bacteria data using our new more sensitive indicator enterococci in the future to help put this in better perspective.

We had a perfect month for sample collection from all our 20 sites plus our 2 duplicates and blanks. I appreciate that our team was able to step in and successfully restart our sampling program after a 1 year and 4 month hiatus due to the pandemic.

As we have in the past TRWA forwards our results to EPA Region 1 and MassDEP for their information. My hope is that now that there is a new Administration in DC they will be motivated to complete updated permits for Somerset and Fall River with nutrient limitations so that the five major treatment plants who are already completing upgrades and everyone who lives in the watershed will receive the benefit of their investment and a healthier estuary and river.

TRWA Monitoring Began August 10, 2021

On August 10th TRWA restarted it’s watershed monitoring program after a one year, four month pause due to the Covid 19 pandemic. We paused the program in 2020 to keep our sampling volunteers and our partners at the Taunton wastewater treatment plant safe. Now that our volunteers have had the opportunity to get fully vaccinated we restarted the program. Our volunteers wear masks when dropping off samples at the WWTP lab.

We held our annual training event outside at our Sweets Knoll State Park River Center on the last Saturday morning the month before our sampling program resumed. We have 22 volunteer samplers working on 9 teams sampling 20 locations in the watershed the second Tuesday morning of each month this year.

We had a great day for the training and for our first day sampling. We will be posting the results of the August 2021 samples in the next couple of weeks once we receive them from our contract laboratory.

TRWA’s MassDEP Quality Assurance Project Plan approved monitoring is important because it is the only monitoring in the upper watershed tracking the effects of development, climate change and wastewater treatment plant upgrades on water quality. This information is important for tracking trends, identifying problems and suggesting measures to promote the health of the Taunton River and the people and wildlife this ecosystem sustains.

A big thank you to our returning and new sampling volunteers as well as our partners at Veolia – Taunton WWTP!

Annual Taunton River Festival Returns September 12, 2021, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM

The Annual Taunton River Festival
Will return to the Wild and Scenic Taunton River’s Weir Riverfront Park on Sunday, September 12, 2021, 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

Help us make this event a special celebration.

Our fair is admission free, and we will offer a variety of activities for the entire family, including live music, a food court, a craft fair, river activities, education and more.

If you are a school group, service club, community group, church, environmental organization or local business, we invite you to participate. You can:

  • Sponsor an event
  • Sign up for a table
  • Or present an event

We need volunteers too.

If you are interested, please email Director@savethetaunton.org, call (508) 828-1101 or message us on Facebook to volunteer or request an exhibitor (nonprofits) or vendor registration form.

Benefits include:

  • A chance to meet new customers and catch up with regulars you haven’t seen in person recently
  • Postings of business/nonprofit information on Facebook
  • A chance to introduce your nonprofit to potential members or donors
  • The chance to inform the public on how your organization is working to protect the Taunton River and make the watershed more resilient to climate change and how they can help

We are looking forward to meeting out new participants and catching up with those who have participated before.

Come early.  Set up time is 9:00 – 10:00. Table locations (bring your own table) are awarded on first come first served basis.

Any city or state Covid regulations in effect on the day of the event (September 12, 2021), such as distance between exhibit tables or mask requirements, will apply.

 

TRWA Water Quality Monitoring Program for 2021

TRWA is pleased to announce the TRWA Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program will resume on Tuesday, August 10, 2021 this year! Existing and new volunteer monitoring training will be held Saturday, July 31, 2021 at TRWA’s Sweets Knoll State Park Office in Dighton, MA (on Rt 138 just South of the Bristol Aggie traffic light – 1387 Somerset Avenue, Dighton, MA). On July 31st we will have sign-in and an informal get acquainted and Q/ A session from 9:30am to 10:00am and the training will run from 10:00am to Noon. If you want to participate but can’t make the July 31st training date, contact the TRWA office at director@savethetaunton.org and we’ll see if a make-up day is needed.

TRWA volunteers will sample the first Tuesday of the month for the remainder of the sampling season August, September, and October (3 months). Teams take their samples form 2 or 3 locations anytime between 5:00am to 8:00am and drop them off at the Taunton WWTP lab no later than 8:30am. As we have done in the past, and as noted above the refresher sampler/new volunteer training is on the last Saturday morning of the month before sampling begins which is Saturday, July 31, 2021 this year.

August is an important month for water quality monitoring. As the veteran samplers know TRWA teams of volunteers sample 20 locations (4 on the main stem of the Taunton River and 16 locations on tributary rivers/streams) the second Tuesday of each month during our sampling season (normally April through October). We have a MassDEP Quality Assurance Plan approved sampling program. We do 2 duplicates and 2 blanks each month (1 for every 10 samples for Nitrate, Total Phosphorus and Bacteria the most important pollutants we monitor). TRWA monitoring is important because it documents along with MassDEP Mount Hope Bay continuous monitoring the need for upgrading all seven major wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the watershed to remove nitrogen and for the four WWTPs in the upper freshwaters of the watershed to also remove phosphorus. It also highlights the need across the entire watershed for better stormwater controls for new and existing development to reduce bacteria, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from stormwater discharges.

TRWA delayed the start of the sampling program to give our volunteers time to obtain their vaccinations so we can be safe working with each other and so we won’t risk bringing the virus to our program partners at the Taunton wastewater treatment plant. For both the training and sampling we are following CDC Guidelines. Those that are fully vaccinated (2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine) can participate normally. Those not fully vaccinated or with a compromised immune system must wear masks and practice social distancing.

We look forward to seeing you at the training session on July 31st. If you are a veteran sampler and your team needs sample bottles you can contact Rick McCormack at the Taunton WWTP lab (508-823-3582) to make arrangements to pick them up or contact Steve Silva the sampling program coordinator (steve124@gmail.com). The TRWA 2021 Standard Operating Procedures guide is on the TRWA website https://savethetaunton.org/ at the monitoring tab as well as our simple one-page sampler instructions sheet, chain of custody form, instructions for filling out sample bottle labels, Google map of sampling locations, and 2021 blank reporting forms which show in the lower section which locations/teams will collect duplicate and blank samples each month. This webpage generally has anything you might want to review concerning the sampling program.

One of the most important things we want to accomplish at the training is to ensure that we have teams of people with at least one veteran sampler ready to cover each sampling location. We will assign new volunteers to teams with veterans for hands-on training and to ease them into the program. If you know anyone who might like to get fresh morning air, knowledge, and be part of an important effort to save our environment, please invite them to the training.

If you are a veteran sampler and are no longer able to participate in the sampling program, please let Steve Silva (steve124@gmail.com) know to help us with planning.