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!

Volunteer of the Month – Steve Silva

Steve Silva at the Water Testing Workshop

Steve Silva is our Volunteer of the month for February. A retired Water Quality Director for the EPA, his passion at TRWA is to raise the water quality in the Watershed to higher and higher standards.

Joe Callahan TRWA president says, “Steve Silva is a tremendous asset and addition to the TRWA organization. He stepped in immediately to assume leadership role in running our successful water quality monitoring program.  It is a natural fit given his experience with the US EPA in the water section.  He is a great resource to the entire watershed and represents TRWA in his tireless work in the Resilient Taunton Watershed Network.  Steve is also currently serving as Secretary for TRWA, and his detailed note taking has meant our meetings have gone smoothly, and well-organized and much more informative. Much thanks to Steve Silva our volunteer of the month and more.”     

Unlike some of the other TRWA volunteers, Steve says he has never lived along a river, and unlike many in TRWA, doesn’t spend much recreational time on a river. While many of our members are looking for beautiful nature shots, he is more often pursuing pictures of algae blooms and slime.

Here’s how you can help Steve keep to raise the quality of the rivers, streams and wetlands of our Watershed. 

  1. Don’t pass up a good algae or slime picture. We want to see them, know where the picture was taken and the date. They help in evaluating the water conditions.
  2. Volunteer for the water quality testing program. By this summer Steve is hoping there may be enough folks vaccinated to do a Saturday morning training session and them sample late summer through October. The program needs a few new volunteers. Keep checking back on Facebook for a starting date. 
  3. Ask questions. If no one at TRWA knows the answer, we may be able to pass you on to the right people to ask.
  4. Be a spotter. We need eyes on the ground. The Taunton River Watershed is the second largest in the state, and we want to hear from as many locations in it as possible. Watch for environmental projects in your own location that affect the watershed. Read the local press. We like unusual pictures and stories of any type too. You never know when you are going to come across an endangered or threatened species.
  5. Join your town or city’s conservation commission or related local group and pass along information about issues you think may concern us.

For all of these email with your pictures, questions and information. Or call 508-828-1101. Someone will get back to you within a few days.

Steve says, “My interest comes from knowing how polluted the Taunton River and many of its tributaries were in the past and seeing the benefit of the cleanup of other once polluted rivers and estuaries like Boston Harbor and the Androscoggin and Presumpscot Rivers. I’d like to see those benefits realized in the Taunton River Watershed.”

He is working hard to make sure TRWA’s progress is well documented. Due to COVID, 2020, water testing was cancelled. However, past results are documented here:

Steve does more for TRWA than water testing. He is the eyes and ears of the advocacy program. He shares information with the board. He attends meetings and represents TRWA at events. Presently he is following efforts to strengthen Massachusetts drought regulations. He is the secretary/clerk, meticulous with his notes, and he is not afraid to take on mundane chores. He and his wife Lucille cleaned and organized the office when TRWA moved in.

Here is what the TRWA board says about him.

Carol Traverse, office manager, “Steve is amazing.  He is so well organized about everything he does.  I’m forever grateful to him and Lucille for cleaning and organizing the TRWA office.  And he is an incredibly kind and understanding person which makes him easy to work with–a perfect fit for the Water Quality Coordinator. He is TRWA’S clerk/secretary who keeps track of everything which is not an easy task.”

Dick Shafer, treasurer: “Steve has been an invaluable volunteer for TRWA, not only for being Secretary, but also leading and training the Water Quality Monitoring program volunteers with Alex Houtzager.  His career at the EPA has also provided us with a knowledgeable response to environmental issues that arise in the watershed and strengthens our advocacy positions on the Clean Water Act”.

Craig Heffernan, vice president: “Steve was one of the first members of TRWA I met when I went to the water quality training. I was lucky to be teamed up with him to do water testing. Learning that Steve was retired from the EPA was particularly great for me because I could ask all the questions about water related conservation. Steve has a great wealth of knowledge of water conservation and protection in the watershed including having the information and experience with wastewater treatment facilities. He is a patient teacher, updating the board on related improvements and active ongoings within the watershed. As secretary he takes diligent notes of the minutes for each board meeting as well as detailed results for the water quality testing each month. Steve is a wonderful asset of TRWA and one of the many reasons why I want to continue as a volunteer for TRWA.”

Sally Spooner, volunteer Facebook/Website writer and photographer: “I can’t say enough about Steve and the kind of knowledge he is sharing with us. Our audience is hungry to learn, and his posts are always popular.  As a TRWA volunteer whose job includes distilling Steve’s extensive scientific knowledge into language everyday people understand, I appreciate his patience. We often speak in different languages, and he is a willing translator. Without the patience of people like Steve, we would be left out of learning about clean water, what it takes to make it that way and what it takes to keep it that way.

Volunteer of the Month: Priscilla Chapman

Priscilla ChapmanPriscilla Chapman, longtime TRWA board member and watershed advocate is TRWA’s December volunteer of the month. She completed her two-year term as the president of TRWA in November with a surprise bouquet of flowers and thank you’s from the board. As one of her last presidential duties she conducted TRWA’s annual meeting via Zoom, a major accomplishment. Participating via Zoom was a major achievement to some of TRWA’s members too. Priscilla will remain on the board so she can give more time to her first love, watershed advocacy.
Our board members have commented on Priscilla’s advocacy. As each member gives examples of her work, you will get a sense of how long, determined and persistent her devotion to protecting the watershed have been.
Incoming TRWA president Joe Callahan says, “Priscilla is and remains hopefully for many years a great advocate for TRWA and the watershed. She has given so much of her time to TRWA and deserves much recognition. She is a terrific writer and is expert on MEPA* wetlands regulations. It is her forte. I want to thank her for her years of dedication and urge her to continue in her advocacy work. She is a great asset to lean on.
*MEPA is the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, and its regulations are complicated and crucially important in the watershed
Longtime board member Alex seconds Joe sentiments. He says that she was a great help and lent much of her time in helping him fight the shopping mall which was planned in Freetown several years back on an area that was a known coal ash pit near the Assonet Bay in an area that was also known diamondback terrapin habitat. This was a very emotional topic in Freetown for some time, and the shopping center eventually was not built, and that part of the diamondback terrapin habitat remained. Read more about this story here.
Fellow board member Craig Heffernan adds, “She’s a wealth of information on issues facing the watershed. Her work on advocacy is second to none.
Steve Silva, TRWA’s water quality testing program director says, “Priscilla has been a backbone volunteer for TRWA both during my six-year involvement with the organization and from what I’ve learned many years before that. 
Using her experience from being on the Fall River Conservation Commission, she prepares thoughtful comments on development projects in the watershed.
She stepped in to be President for two years when we really needed her. She has done some big projects like the Stream Continuity Study Report which she worked on with Mass Audubon. She has done (and continues to do) so much for TRWA!
Carol Traverse concludes, “Priscilla’s letters and comments regarding the Wetlands Protection Act are top notch. When we get a call from someone concerned with a proposed project near the river or wetlands, Priscilla always gets in touch with them or visits the site to assess the person’s concerns. 
I don’t think people realize how much she has done for TRWA because she has gone about things so quietly.
She was also on the study committee to establish forty miles of the Taunton River as Wild and Scenic. Achievement of that status has been very important to the river’s preservation.
So, thank you to Priscilla for stepping in as president when she was needed and now for continuing with the environmental advocacy that is so important and we look forward to your contributions to TRWA’s continuing advocacy work.

Volunteer of the Month – Joe Callahan

Joe Callahan

When you think about Joe, you think of the word steady.

Joe Callahan, TRWA’s incoming president and past president, knows a thing or two about water.

Recreationally, he has done white water rafting, hiking, kayaking and trout fishing here and in the Grand Tetons, the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.  

Study and analysis of water became his career. He is an avid volunteer for its protection.

A co-op job at Northeastern headed him away from his anticipated career as a lawyer into environmental work at the EPA and at National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

He is a volunteer who just can’t say no. In addition to being TRWA’s incoming president, he is a Taunton River Wild and Scenic Board member, and Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) representative for Berkley and its Finance and Personnel Committees. He also serves as a member of the Joint Transportation Planning Group.

He is looking forward to a retirement although it’s still a few years away, because he has “lots in his future.” Right now, his busy life has left two brand new fishing poles sitting unused.

TRWA needs people like Joe more than ever to maintain and expand its core mission in environmental advocacy.  If you would join with Joe and other hardworking volunteers, please volunteer here. Where it asks what your interests are, type in “I want to help give Joe time to break in those new fishing poles.”

Joe joined TRWA over twenty years ago and has been a board member for most of that time. He joined to make a difference and enjoy the remarkable assets of the Taunton River at the same time. He says, “I am an environmental consultant by trade who cares deeply for the environment in which we live. We must protect and preserve this earth, the water, the air, and the wildlife or it will not be there for future generations.  I feel each of us has a duty to `do a part in whatever small way we can.”

Saying he is an environmental consultant is typical of Joe’s style of quiet understatement about himself.

He is a senior project manager at ​Environmental Strategies & Management (ES&M). ​He has nearly 30 years of experience in the environmental industry.  He is a Massachusetts Licensed Site Professional (LSP #7936), a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and a Toxics Use Reduction Planner (TURP).  At ES&M he is a Senior Project Manager for environmental assessment and remediation projects for major petroleum (both retail and terminal sites), industrial, and utility customers at sites throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  He manages several projects that involve wetlands permitting and storm-water management.

He says, “When I first joined TRWA, our offices were in a small room in an old mill building in Bridgewater. We’ve come a long way since then and in partnership with DCR, the Massachusetts department of Conservation and Recreation, we now have our offices in a beautiful building at Sweets Knoll State Park in Dighton.”  The part he isn’t mentioning is that he was instrumental in establishing the partnership and procuring the building. He continues “There were dedicated people with TRWA when I first joined as there are now. They provide a strong voice for the protection and preservation of the Wild and Scenic Taunton River and its watershed.”

Two other TRWA veterans have much to say in praise of him.

Steve Silva is TRWA’s director of the water quality monitoring program. Volunteering for a monitoring team is an attractive opportunity for environmental advocacy as long as Covid regulations permit it in 2021. This is what he says.

“Joe is an unselfish champion for the Taunton river watershed and a great choice for November volunteer of the month. I joined TRWA as a sampling volunteer in 2014 and became a Board member in 2015 where I first had the pleasure of meeting Joe. Joe is an avid kayaker and environmentalist who is an unselfish champion for the Taunton River. He has always stepped up.

His engineering technical knowledge, common sense, and knowledge of the watershed and the challenges facing it from rapid growth to climate change have been invaluable to the efforts of each group he helps.”

Jen O’Keefe, a longtime TRWA volunteer, avid kayaker, member of the terrapin team and calendar publisher may have said it best.

“Joe’s not looking for a stage, he’s looking for what’s best for the river.  And indeed, his quiet professionalism has been a mainstay of the TRWA’s board for many years, keeping things going when the going gets tough.

When you sit across from Joe at a meeting, you have no clue that this quiet and reserved person absolutely loves being outside and on the river. It’s something that you really only see if you happen to be on a paddling trip with him. He was instrumental in keeping things going when the TRWA made the move from Boyden to Sweets Knoll. When you think about Joe, you think of the word steady – because his work, whether it is with advocating for the river or for organizing a paddling trip or the annual meeting, while not flashy, is vital and his skills as a project planner are often all on display as he helps out with whatever project or educational opportunity the TRWA is organizing. He will be stepping up again to president this fall, and the watershed will once again benefit by having someone with his skills and heart giving direction to the TRWA’s work.”

~ by Sally Spooner

Volunteer of the Month – Carol Traverse

Carol Traverse is TRWA’s lynchpin.
She is the volunteer office manager. She has been with TRWA for fifteen years, and she is the person everyone turns to answer questions. “Carol, what do you think?” “Carol, do you remember when……?” “Carol, do you know what we did with…………?” And she either knows the answer or, in her patient way, helps to find it.She is quiet about her work and her achievements. There is no plaque above her desk to show that she received the Arthur Cleveland Bent Award from the Taunton Conservation Commission for her long-term contributions to environmental work. TRWA is not her only volunteer work. She has also spent 25 years as the treasurer of Friends of the Boyden.

You will learn from others that she is the glue that holds TRWA together. And how highly her judgement is valued. Our board and volunteers say it the best:

From Jen O’Keefe:
Carol likes to get things done! She cares about the environment and the community we live in, and you will find she has made this small corner of the world a better place in her steady, quiet, understated way. She volunteered for 4H, she worked for the City of Taunton. She still continues to volunteer for the Friends of Boyden and still continues to volunteer at the TRWA even after her paid position was eliminated. Her accumulated experience running events for the public and for kids is a tremendous asset to the TRWA.

A hidden talent I discovered eleven years ago when I started volunteering with the TRWA and came up with this crazy idea of a photo contest is that she has an impeccable eye for a good photograph. Carol has been a mainstay of our volunteer effort with the calendar contest. 

Ms. Terrapin, the TRWA office mascot, adores her.

And Carol cares deeply about her family and she’s a great friend.”

From Steve Silva:
Carol is the institutional memory for the Taunton River Watershed Alliance. When an issue or question arises, Carol is always one of the first to weigh in with valuable information and insight.

She does an outstanding job managing our office and records, keeping the operation on track. She is a stalwart champion for the environment using her time and talent to advance TRWA’s environmental protection efforts and promote responsible stewardship of our precious and irreplaceable water resources.”

From Craig Heffernan:
Carol does the hard work behind the scenes that’s often overlooked. She is very patient, knowledgeable and experienced about the issues facing the watershed. She is a determined volunteer and helps to keep the office, emails and books up to date. TRWA is fortunate to have her as a board member.”

Monica Bentley, board member and director of the kayaking program:
I always come away learning something new when I talk with Carol. She’s always got the answers whether it’s about something that happened years ago, who did what or anything to do with the office.”

Joe Callahan, board member and past president:
Carol is a tremendous asset to TRWA and continues to do incredible voluntary work for the organization since she’s joined the Board.”

Nancy Durfee, TRWA board member:
It is an honor to recognize Carol as the TRWA October 2020 Volunteer of the Month. Volunteers are the heart and soul of TRWA, and she has delivered countless hours of dedication to TRWA.

What a great example Carol has been. A true leader, with a “can do” attitude, a team spirit, and the willingness to go above-and-beyond.”

Dick Shafer, treasurer and past president:
We were delighted that Carol agreed to become the TRWA Office Manager part time after she retired from working for the City. She continues to be the “glue” of our growing grassroots organization, now operating from our new office at Sweets Knoll State Park!”

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