June Monitoring Data Available

The June monitoring data is available at the website Water Quality Monitoring Program tab above. River flows were still high as evident from the difficulty our canoe trip participants had making their way under the old Plymouth St. Bridge on the Nemasket River. Water temperatures were generally a couple of degrees warmer than last month.

We again had 100% coverage of all sampling location which is a tribute to the dedication of our volunteers! Despite the high flows mentioned we measured 10 exceedances of our nitrate target of 0.4 mg/l throughout the watershed and 2 exceedances of out total phosphorus target on the lower main stem of the Taunton.

Since our June 12th sampling the Taunton river watershed like all of Massachusetts has been experiencing dry conditions. River flows have begun to decrease and we are starting to see visual evidence of algae blooms. Our July 10 sampling will be important to document further exceedances of the EPA and MassDEP instream water quality targets referenced in the Fact Sheets for the last round of NPDES permit reissuances. TRWA monitoring documents the need for those municipalities that have not finished their plant upgrades to stay on schedule and for EPA and MassDEP to move forward with reissuance with the last two outdated permits in the watershed Somerset and Fall River.

TRWA Two Day Scenic River Run and Camp Out Fun for All!

Great weather and participation in this years two day canoe kayak trip made for a fun time for all!

The group started from Oliver Mill Park on Saturday, June 9th traveled down the Nemasket River to the Taunton River and on to historic Camp Titicut in Bridgewater a former Native American campsite. Several families and participants camped overnight.

On Sunday the campers were joined by new arrivals for the second leg of the trip from Camp Titicut in Bridgewater to the Taunton Riverfront Park at the Weirs where the TRWA sponsored Taunton River Festival was underway.


Taunton River Festival Fun

Many thanks to all who helped bring the River Festival back to the Weir!

This past Sunday, the TRWA, with the help of the Taunton Cultural Council and the Taunton River Stewardship Council, the Weir Community once again celebrated the Taunton River with the Taunton River Festival at the Weir Waterfront Park.  Entertainment was provided by The Old Foggies, The Goat Roper Band, and the Silver City Dance Studio.  

Information Tables: Angels in America, Bristol County Agricultural School, Bristol County Mosquito Control Project, Christ Community Church, MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources, Mass Audubon, New England Herpetological Society, The Nature Conservancy, Rotary Club of Taunton, Taunton Federal Credit Union, Taunton River Stewardship Council/SRPEDD, TMLP Online, Old Colony YMCA.

Vendors included All Things Possible Photography, Andy’s, Anne James Crafts, Avon, B&B Originals, Bea Soapy, Cape Cod Octopus’ Garden, Cindy’s Workshop, Cornucopia Crafts, Custom Built Inc. Hills’ Home Market, Just Tickled Bows, Mpath Imagery, New England Novelty, Northeast Natural History & Supply, Oscar Boxer Doggie Duds, Poppin’ Mad Kettle Corn, Trucchi’s Supermarkets.

Many thanks to our sponsors:

Platinum: Taunton Cultural Council, Taunton River Stewardship Council
Gold: Columbia Gas of MA
Silver: Jordan’s Furniture, Taunton Federal Credit Union, Rep. Patricia Haddad
Bronze: Dr. Peter Bartel Family Dentistry, Berkley Donuts, Inc./Sardinha Family Trust, Bliss Lumber Co., Friends of Boyden Refuge, New England Recycling, Taunton Municiple Lighting Plant.

Many thanks also to The Neighborhood Corporation, PRIDEWRX, and the City of Taunton for their assistance putting on the festival.  

May 2018 Nitrate Data In

We had sample collection at 100% of sites again this May. Thank you to all the dedicated members of the TRWA Volunteer Monitoring Team!

The results look similar to April and May of 2016 and 2017 (past data on website) beginning to show some marginally high nitrate values on the main stem of the Taunton and lower Three Mile Rivers. Town River in Bridgewater spiked early this year to 0.9 mg/l (over twice our 0.4 mg/l target). In past years the Town River didn’t start to spike to high values until June or July. The Matfield River was high last month but low in May, We don’t know if the Brockton Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) started to experiment with better nitrogen removal in May.

We will continue to watch to see if nitrogen levels spike throughout the watershed from June/July to November as we have seen the past few years once river flow is lower. TRWA is the only one monitoring in the upper Taunton watershed on a regular basis. This monitoring is very important to understanding what is happening in the watershed and documenting the need for better nitrogen removal at WWTPs which dominate summer river flow and better stormwater control to reduce pollution and conserve groundwater for river base flow augmentation.

A piece of good news is despite high rainfall and river flows the fecal coliform levels on the days we tested were low both in April and May. This is good for recreation on the river so please check out our June 9 and 10 canoe/kayak trips on the website or our Facebook page

April Monitoring Results Available

The TRWA monitoring team sampled all 20 monitoring sites in April!  The team did a great job in its first outing of the 2018 sampling season braving cold weather and high river flows.

Extreme weather is the hallmark of climate change and we have seen wet winters and springs with more intense storms for at least the last three years.  On the flip side we have seen hotter dryer summers with droughts.

Our April data indicated high nitrate levels at a number of locations even though dilution of WWTP effluent is at its highest now with rivers near flood stage.  If this year follows the pattern of 2016 and 2017 nitrate target violations will likely again be substantial from July through November peaking from August to October critical months for aquatic life in both the river and estuary.

Fortunately the watershed’s WWTPs are on compliance schedules to reduce nitrogen levels except Somerset (9+ years overdue) and Fall River (12+ years overdue).  We hope EPA and MassDEP will reissue these remaining long overdue permits soon.  We are also hopeful that municipalities and developers will do a better job addressing nutrients from stormwater discharges in the future.

November Nutrient and Coliform Results Complete 2017 Sampling

The November Microbac results for nitrate, total phosphorus and fecal coliform the most important pollutant parameters we track have been received and added to our annual tracking table.

Stream flow on our sampling day (November 14th) was high due to the recent heavy rain and the water was cold. Despite the high dilution nitrate levels at the four main stem sampling locations were still high exceeding the water quality target 2 to 4 times. The lower Three Mile and Matfield locations were high as well (about 4 times the target).

The main stem had one total phosphorus target exceedance at Plain St in Taunton and was borderline at three other locations. The Town River while improved for nitrate was borderline for phosphorus.

Considering the high flows which can cause sewer system overflows and treatment plant bypasses the fecal coliform results looked generally good with the exception of a high level on the Town River at High St. in Bridgewater. This is encouraging.

Overall the results indicate that even at higher flow conditions the river carries enough treated effluent to exceed the instream targets used by MassDEP and EPA in Taunton River permitting. Middleboro recently completed their plant upgrade. As the other plants follow suit with upgrades to remove nitrogen and phosphorus over the next several years our monitoring will be important in tracking river nutrient levels.

TRWA hosts its 2017 Annual Meeting

The TRWA held its Annual Meeting on Saturday, November 4th, 2017.  Senator Marc Pacheco and Karl Pastore, DCR South Region Director were our guest speakers.  Also, TRWA researcher Patty Levasseur gave an update on the TRWA’s population study of the Assonet Bay Diamond Back Terrapins.  

Priscilla Chapman, David Rosa, Craig Hefferman, T.J. Torees, and Carol Traverse were elected to the TRWA’s Board of Directors.  Approved for 2018 officers were Joe Callahan, President; Priscilla Chapman, Vice President; Richard Shafer, Treasurer; and Stephen Silva, Secretary. Click here for a summary of the meeting.

TRWA’s 2017 Annual Meeting gets underway

Researcher Patty Levasseur talks about the TRWA’s Assonet Bay Diamondback Terrapin Population Study


October Nutrient and Bacteria Data

The nitrate, total phosphorus and fecal coliform results for October have been added to the website’s 2017 monitoring results tracking table.

The nitrate and TP results are the results we watch most closely because these nutrients promote algae and undesirable weed growth adversely affecting water quality and the diversity of aquatic life that can thrive within our watershed. Better water quality equals more aquatic and wildlife diversity and more recreation opportunity on and along our waterways. In other words these are the water quality metrics we want to see improve by better wastewater treatment, improved stormwater management, better fertilizer practices, dam removals, stream corridor protection, and land conservation.

The latest monitoring indicates that the very high nitrate levels measured since July continued into October despite colder temperatures and somewhat higher river flows. The levels measured in the lower Three Mile and Town Rivers are still extremely high (up to 12 times the water quality goal) while many other locations ranged from 3.75 to 6.45 times the goal.

TRWA monitoring continues to shine the spotlight on the need to finish the WWTP upgrades (scheduled for completion 2020 to 2022) as required by the last round of watershed wastewater discharge permits. It demonstrates a clear need for better stormwater management (another nutrient source and a waste of groundwater/stream base flow replenishing rainwater) especially better management of stormwater from new development and redevelopment. The need for better stormwater management prompted TRWA, MassRivers and eight other watershed organizations to file a lawsuit against Scott Pruitt Administrator of EPA and EPA concerning their delay of the effective date of the already 8 year overdue 2016 stormwater permit. The delay keeps the obsolete and ineffective 2003 EPA stormwater permit in effect.


On September 25th The Massachusetts Rivers Alliance, Taunton River Watershed Alliance (TRWA), and eight other watershed groups from across the state filed suit in Boston’s federal district court asking the court to vacate EPA’s one-year delay in implementing the state’s new stormwater permit.  Joining Mass Rivers and TRWA were watershed groups representing the Connecticut; Mystic; Merrimack; Ipswich; North and South; Jones; Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord; and Neponset Rivers.

“Stormwater is the state’s number one pollution problem,” said Mass Rivers Executive Director Julia Blatt, “and this permit is a product of extensive public input as well as eight long years of negotiation among the state DEP, the EPA, and many stakeholders.  The EPA pulled the rug out from under the state’s pollution control efforts by announcing this delay two days before the effective date.”

The permit, known as the “MS4,” for small “municipal separate storm sewer systems,” regulates stormwater pollution under the federal Clean Water Act.  Issued jointly by the EPA and MassDEP, it covers 260 entities in Massachusetts, including municipalities and federal and state facilities.  Stormwater, which runs off land, roads and buildings when it rains, carries fertilizer pollution, harmful bacteria, oil, gas, toxic metals, and salt into nearby waterways.

The largest water quality problems in the Taunton River watershed are algae blooms from too much nutrients and depleted summer river flows which are both made worse by poorly managed stormwater runoff.  The obsolete 2003 EPA stormwater permit EPA’s action leaves in place is outdated, and does a poor job protecting the environment from stormwater’s problems.  The new MS4 permit has more specific conditions requiring towns to create a stormwater management plan and directs them to map their stormwater collection systems, monitor outfall pipes, and prioritize cleanup of the most pressing problems, such as the discharge of untreated sewage into nearby waterways via stormdrains.  The permit also requires public outreach, stormwater recharge, and “good housekeeping” practices such as storm drain cleaning and street sweeping as well as adoption of specific and clear local ordinances for control of stormwater from new development and redevelopment.

The environmental groups are worried that the permit could be delayed much longer than one year.  This permit was eight years in the making and long overdue.  The groups believe further delay of the permit does not make any sense and that we need this permit for a healthy environment and safe recreation.  Click here to see the TRWA press release.

The river groups are represented by Kevin Cassidy of Earthrise Law Center and Access to Justice Fellow Irene C. Freidel.  Click here to see the filed complaint.