Volunteer of the Month – Jen O’Keefe

Jen O’Keefe (L) with the terrapin team.

Jen O’Keefe is a TRWA backbone volunteer.

Like so many others she joined because of one activity and then went on to others. In each, she is passing on her environmental passion and skills to children and young people who must have them to protect our future.

She says, “I joined the TRWA because I went on four or five kayak trips run by Canoe Passage Outfitters and after the 4th or 5th realized, “Hey these people like the same things I do. They have the same values I have and do work I like to see done, let’s join.

I am a 2nd generation water tester. My father tested water for the Westport River Watershed Association on the East Branch of the Westport River for 7 years. So, after paddling with the TRWA sponsored trips, meeting folks, and then, upon learning they too water tested, I joined and became a water quality monitor.

As a water tester like her father, she has enlisted the help of her children with hopes that they will carry on this family tradition.

Jen also founded and publishes the TRWA tide calendar and conducted its photography contest for its first ten years. For 2021 she has encouraged a new set of volunteers to keep the calendar going as she tries to step back a little. One of the contest’s goals has been to encourage young people to enter the contest.

Jen is also involved in the terrapin study. She is a natural teacher. This year TRWA marked six terrapin nests. As the eggs hatched Jen taught children who spotted hatchlings to pick them up carefully and take them to be weighed and measured. After the weigh in they excitedly, gently, and carefully, carried them back to their native habitat and watched as they disappeared.

Jen is also one of the caretakers of TRWA’s own office terrapin. This terrapin can no longer live in the wild and may someday become TRWA’s traveling ambassador, visiting classrooms and other locations. Although this was Impossible in 2020, we have hopes that it will happen sometime in 2021.

If, like Jen, you share values with TRWA and have fun things you want to do and/or work you would like to see done, please join us or become a volunteer yourself. We’d be happy to have you on board.
~Sally Spooner

Volunteer of the Month – Dick Shafer

Dick Shafer
We asked our Board members and a few volunteers to tell us why they joined TRWA. Our first volunteer is Dick Shafer.

“I attended the initial TRWA organizational meeting in 1988 led by Bill Napolitano, Kitty Doherty and others.

I joined that night as one of the founding members and have been a member ever since. I had just acquired a canoe and was interested in river trips,” says Dick Shafer, current TRWA’s Board member and Treasurer. 

It’s the “that night” feeling we hope we can convey to you when you consider joining TRWA. We are in the “‘that night” period of our environmental activism needs.

He continues, “I was completely onboard with TRWA’s support of the Clean Water Act, as well as, later, the quest to achieve the Wild and Scenic River Federal designation.

After many years as a member, Kitty convinced me to join the Board of Directors where I eventually became President for seven years and am now Treasurer.”

Saying that he joined because he was interested in river trips is an understatement, by far.  Since 1988, Dick has chaired or volunteered for many TRWA committees, activities and positions as well as, one of his proudest achievements, reviving the Taunton River Festival. Besides that, he is always ready to lend a hand.

Now, some thirty-two years after that first meeting, he still involved.  He is working on the 2021 tide calendar photo contest. He is chairing the building renovation committee. He is a member of the fund-raising committee. If the Taunton River Festival hadn’t been delayed until 2021 by Covid 19, he would be very busy with that right now.

 We need more volunteers like Dick and hope you will consider being one of them, even if you start with just one position.

He closes by saying, “We have a great team now and with the new Watershed Center a lot of great opportunities for the future.”

You can become a part of it. Our mission is to protect and restore the watershed’s natural resources for current and future generations. Join us and Become a Member or Become a Volunteer.
~Sally Spooner

Snake River at Bay Road, Norton

Snake River at Bay Road, upstream at Winnecunnet Pond, Norton, MA

 Snake River at Bay Road, upstream at Winnecunnet Pond, Norton, MA

Snake River at Bay Road, downstream

Snake River at Bay Road, downstream

Snake River at Bay Road, put-in

Snake River at Bay Road, put-in

Finally! A river that looks like it’s not going to put me under. You always want to do the Snake River at high water and now looks like the perfect opportunity. I can’t wait to give it a try.

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

Taunton River at Summer Street

Taunton River at Summer St, upstream

Taunton at Summer downstream

Taunton River at Summer St, downstream

Taunton at Summer put-in

Taunton River at Summer St, put-in

The Taunton River at Summer Street seems pretty tame compared to some of the other put-ins I’ve checked out in the past couple weeks. Don’t get me wrong, there is a fairly strong current and you should be prepared to work if you go downstream and want to come back up. Just be aware that further downstream the little flurry of quickwater at the Titicut St bridge isn’t just a little flurry any more. It’s a class 3 right now so wear your helmet and wetsuit!

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

Taunton River at Titicut Street bridge

Taunton at Titicut, upstream

Taunton at Titicut St, upstream

Taunton at Titicut St, downstream

Taunton at Titicut St, downstream

Taunton at Titicut St put-in

Taunton at Titicut St put-in


This is one of my favorite put-ins for a group trip. Usually there is 6-8ft of beach and wide enough to fit 12-15 kayaks easily. This week, there’s no beach … and the water is really moving. What’s usually a little flurry under the bridge might be now classified as a class 3 rapid. Be aware of this spot should you decide to put in at Summer St on the Taunton, Murdoch St on the Nemasket or anywhere further up the Nemasket River.

If you want to see the video to see how fast it’s moving click here.

The downside to this put-in is the lack of parking. People have to load/unload in the street with cars & trucks whizzing by and the path down to the put-in is full of poison ivy.

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

Fast current, low bridges and cold water

Nemasket at Plymouth St looking upstream

Nemasket at Plymouth St looking downstream

Nemasket at Plymouth St

Historic Plymouth St bridge over the Nemasket River


If you want to see the video to see how fast it’s moving click here.

Over the past few days I’ve been out checking river conditions and – I can’t believe I’m saying this – but I’m glad it’s too cold to paddle. The river conditions are pretty scary. And I’m one who likes to be out at the end of March or early April! We usually do our first trip on the upper Nemasket because it’s wide and calm. But the currents this year are a bit faster than normal due to all the rain. Plus – we can’t shuttle back up the river with the CDC corona virus guidelines.

This is the lower Nemasket River at Plymouth Street. The current is quick, and trying to get under this bridge with its headspace that slopes down as you go through would be pretty treacherous. There is a set of steps that you could use to launch and the bottom step is about 6 foot long. That step is currently about a foot under (cold) water.

I’ll be posting more locations over the next few days. Stay tuned.

~Monica Bentley
TRWA River Guide

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.

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


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!