June Monitoring Results

TRWA’s most recent sampling summary spreadsheets showing the results for April through June are available from the monitoring tab on the website or this link.
 
Nitrate
Lower stream flows and warmer water appears to be contributing to increased nitrate results downstream of the Brockton wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in the Matfield River and downstream in the Taunton River as far as Cherry St. in Bridgewater.  We are measuring elevated nitrate at the two most downstream sampling sites on the Three Mile River, Town River below the Bridgewater WWTP and in the Taunton at Church St. in Raynham.
 
Total Phosphorus
Total Phosphorus (TP) measured was higher than last month with two locations (upper and lower Taunton River) above the 0.100 mg/l in-stream target used by EPA in permit limit development. Elevated TP in the 0.07 to 0.095 mg/l range were measured downstream of the Brockton, Bridgewater and Taunton WWTPs. TP levels of 0.077 and .087 mg/l were measured in Raynham at Church St. and the Forge River possibly from stormwater runoff from paved parking lots and roadways in the area. This is an indication of a potential need for better stormwater management.
 
Bacteria
Bacteria levels (enterococci) were frequently above state standards in June.
 
 In Taunton River’s 562 square mile watershed because of significant wetlands including the largest in Massachusetts, the Hockomock Swamp and the Assawompset Pond Complex, the largest natural pond system in the state the start of our low water period typically lags other watersheds by about one month (July through September). As stream flow decreases further this summer and temperatures rise we will be looking to see how this affects water quality. We will also be looking to see how recent work on upgrades at the Brockton and Bridgewater WWTPs affect water quality. Middleborough and the Mansfield/Foxboro/Norton Regional WWTPs completed upgrades in 2019. Both TRWA and our partners at Save The Bay in RI have been encouraging EPA Region 1 in Boston to reissue the last two WWTP permits requiring nitrogen removal upgrades Somerset and Fall River this year so that all seven major WWTPs in the watershed will have adequate wastewater treatment someday.
 
We are also reviewing Combined Sewer Overflows from Fall River which has 19 outfalls. Information is available from the recent MassDEP annual CSO summary report and MassDEP CSO webpage and the City’s CSO website. Thank you to our monitoring program volunteers who are making the case for better wastewater treatment and stormwater management!

May Monitoring Results Are Available

Our most recent sampling summary spreadsheets showing the results for April and May 2023 are posted on the website and can be reached through the Water Quality Monitoring Tab or this link. Despite relatively high spring stream flow (similar to last month) we found elevated nitrate results downstream of the Brockton wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in the Matfield River and downstream in the Taunton River as far as Cherry St. in Bridgewater. Total Phosphorus (TP) measured was below the 0.100 mg/l in-stream target used by EPA in permit limit development but somewhat elevated in the 0.06 to 0.08 mg/l range downstream of the Brockton, Bridgewater and Taunton WWTPs. TP levels of 0.075 and .052 mg/l were measured in the Taunton River in Raynham at Church St. and the Forge River in Raynham possibly from stormwater runoff from paved parking lots and roadways in the area. This is an indication of a potential need for better stormwater management. Bacteria levels (enterococci) were all in compliance with state standards except the small Chuckamuckett Brook which flows out of Berkley near the Berkley / Dighton Bridge. We often find high nitrate and bacteria levels in this brook consistent with agricultural runoff.

As stream flow decreases this summer and temperatures rise we will be looking to see how this affects water quality. We will also be looking to see how recent work on upgrades at the Brockton and Bridgewater WWTPs affect water quality. Middleborough and the Mansfield/Foxboro/Norton Regional WWTPs completed upgrades in 2019. Both TRWA and our partners at Save The Bay in RI have been encouraging EPA Region 1 in Boston to reissue the last two WWTP permits requiring nitrogen removal upgrades Somerset and Fall River this year so that all seven major WWTPs in the watershed will have adequate wastewater treatment someday.

 

TRWA April Sampling Results

TRWA sampling results for April are available on the website.

We want to thank our sampling volunteers for a great first month of the season! All sites and quality control duplicate and blank samples were collected.

Streamflow is high and the water cold in April so we don’t usually anticipate measurement of water quality concerns like we might find during summer heat and low flow. We didn’t see major problems this month. A few nutrient concerns noted will bear watching as lower flow and warmer weather returns. All the bacteria samples met the state’s water quality criteria even though we are using the state’s relatively new more sensitive bacteria indicator species enterococci.

We saw an elevated nitrate value in the Matfield River possibly because Brocton WWTP hasn’t started full nitrogen removal yet (required May through October as an average limit), a slightly elevated value at Center St. in Berkley downstream of Taunton WWTP which is currently working to complete nitrogen removal facilities, and a high value at Chuckamuckett Brook which we have seen in previous years and is likely due to agricultural sources. Fortunately, Chuckamuckett Brook has a low flow.

We saw one elevated total phosphorus value in the Nemasket River which may be due to wastewater treatment plant seasonal phosphorus removal start up issues.

 As far as dissolved oxygen (DO),  pH and Temperature are concerned (second spreadsheet) we saw two unexpectedly low pH values. The pH in our watershed is naturally acidic due to swamps, bogs and pine forested areas so we usually don’t note low pH’s unless below pH 4.0, (significantly outside the expected natural range – pH 7.0 is neutral and it is a log scale meaning each unit of 1means 10 times more acidic). We had a pH 2.84 on the Matfield River and pH 3.97 on the Cotley River. We will watch these areas to see if the unusual values are repeated.

 We moved two sampling locations this season. The most significant is we stopped measuring at TBR-01 a very small feeder stream to Lake Rico in Massasoit State Park which is often dry and instead are monitoring the main stem of the Taunton River at Church St. in Raynham (CHU-01). This gives a main stem location about half way between our two lower river sites in Berkley and Taunton and the two upper sites in Bridgewater. There is large development planned along the Taunton River a short distance upstream of Church St. so this will be an important site to watch. We shifted the Segregansett River site (SEG) back to its original location on Brook St. in Dighton (it had been moved to an upstream bridge crossing due to occasional low water). The SEG team wants to try this location again to see if we can get samples closer to the Taunton main stem.

 We always anticipate start-up glitches after the winter sampling hiatus but our samplers did great!

 Again we want to thank our dedicated samplers for all they do!

Annual Sampling Refresher and New Volunteer Training – March 25, 2023

Become a Guardian of the Taunton River and its tributaries by joining the TRWA sampling team!
 
We do our annual refresher and new volunteer training on the last Saturday morning the month before the program is due to start for the year. The training will be Saturday, March 25, 2023, 9:30 – Noon at our Sweets Knoll State Park office this year.
 
This year the first monitoring day will be Tuesday morning 4/11/23 (second Tuesday of the month). We collect one sample per month April through October (takes about 2 hours for sample collection and drop off by 8:30 am). 
 
We are looking forward to seeing our returning veterans and some new potential volunteers interested in helping the sampling program and learning about the environment. We will go over the procedures, answer questions, make sure everyone has what they need, and assign new folks to teams convenient to where they live to fill in for volunteers who have moved away. The new volunteers need no experience or technical knowledge just a desire to part of an enthusiastic team doing something important to save our rivers. More information may be found on the flyer here and at the Water Quality Monitoring Tab at the top of the TRWA website home page.
 
I’m looking forward to seeing you. Call or email the TRWA office if you have any questions.
 
           
 

TRWA Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report Lakeshore Center Phase 4

TRWA sent a comment letter on the December 15,2022 Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) proposed for Lakeshore Center Phase 4 in Bridgewater. As the letter states TRWA urged that the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) withhold approval of or deny this project which has significant potential to adversely affect the headwaters of the Taunton River including Lake Nippenicket and the Town River.

The (DEIR) leaves reasons to question this major project in such a small vulnerable headwaters watershed which is already suffering adverse impacts from previously completed project phases. The proposed project will disturb 27.85 acres, create 12.74 acres of new impervious cover and include 1,114 parking spaces. There is a need for greater information for adequate review by both interested citizens and public agencies. Areas of concern raised in our letter include:

  • Receiving waters assimilative capacity (streams on site, Lake Nippenicket and Town River)
  • Stormwater
  • Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) of Hockomock Swamp
  • Cumulative Impacts (previous phases plus this proposed phase of development)
  • Archaeological Resources and Tribal Consultation
  • Buffer Zone Protection (wetlands, streams and lake)
  • Restaurant proposed on the Lake Nippenicket Shoreline
  • Request by TRWA for a Monitoring Program
  • Impact on perennial streams draining the three wetlands on site
  • Impact on Town of Raynham Zone II aquifer

As a result of TRWA’s and other citizen comments the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office recently advised Lakeshore Development that there DEIR was insufficient and should be withdrawn.

TRWA August and September Nitrate, Phosphorus and Bacteria Results are on the Website

Since June monitoring has indicated elevated nitrate and phosphorus in the upper river which continued through August and September due to low dilution river flows and Brockton Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) discharge; elevated levels in the Town River were also measured due to low river flows and Bridgewater WWTP discharge. Sporadic bacteria water quality criteria violations possibly due to warm weather, low river flows and wildlife (e.g., geese) were measured in several locations. The Brockton, Bridgewater and Taunton WWTPs are under enforceable permit schedules for upgrades to remove nitrogen and phosphorus which should improve water quality and reduce algae blooms once complete. In other parts of New England such as the coastal bays in Connecticut where these types of upgrades have been completed both water quality and aquatic habitat have shown significant improvement.

TRWA is hoping to convince EPA Region 1 in Boston to reissue the overdue permits for Somerset and Fall River approaching 14 and 17 years overdue respectively to put these WWTPs on an enforceable upgrade schedule. These are the last two plants in the Taunton River watershed requiring upgrades.

 

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.