May Monitoring Data Available

The May monitoring monitoring results are on the website, click on the Water Quality Monitoring program tab from the top of the home page and either the sample bottles picture or link to our monitoring data page under “Documents”.
 
The results show a few high nitrate levels downstream of the Brockton WWTP (Matfield and Upper Taunton Rivers) which may reflect that the plant has not attained full operation of its nitrogen removal facilities yet. Total phosphorus was OK. The number of bacteria water quality criteria violations increased from last month following a similar pattern from last year’s results.
 
Last summer the number of bacteria violations was high. The pattern followed higher water temperatures and intense summer rainstorms. In April this year the water temperature was 7 to 10 degrees C. In May the temperature climbed to 14 to 15 degrees C. Large rainstorms this Spring generated periodic high stormwater runoff as reflected in the Taunton River stream flow measurements by the USGS stream flow gauge in Bridgewater.
 
As our sampling moves through the season we will be watching how river water temperature (20 to 22 degrees C last summer) and stormwater runoff affect bacteria levels. Our data last year indicated that municipalities, commercial properties, state and EPA need to do a much better job of stormwater management to keep bacteria levels in our rivers safe. More intense rainfall rates associated with climate change make addressing the problem critical.
 

April Monitoring Results Available

The water quality monitoring results for last month (April 2024) are on the website.

The flow in the river at the Bridgewater USGS gauge was very high 1690 cubic feet per second (cfs) on the day we sampled, this is 3.6 times the April flow last year when we sampled which was already a typical high spring flow.

Because of the high flow and cold river temperatures we didn’t see many water quality standards violations. We measured a high nitrate value at the small Chuckamuckett Brook in Berkley likely from farm runoff and an elevated level in the Matfield River likely because Brockton hasn’t started full nitrogen removal yet (required in May by their Clean Water Act discharge permit). We saw three bacteria violations typically caused by stormwater runoff but not the extremely high values we measured in June to October last year. We also saw five pH values below 4.0 which may have been from low pH rainfall. We will be watching again this year to see if bacteria violations due to stormwater runoff increase dramatically like last year during the summer from June through October.

We want to thank our dedicated sampling program volunteers and our partners at Veolia Taunton Wastewater Treatment Plant for a smooth start to the sampling season.

EPA Issues New PFAS Drinking Water Regulations

On April 10, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect communities from exposure to harmful per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as ‘forever chemicals.’ Exposure to PFAS has been linked to deadly cancers, impacts to the liver and heart, and immune and developmental damage to infants and children.

Many water suppliers in Massachusetts have been working on treatment improvements to remove PFAS as a result of previously adopted Massachusetts PFAS drinking water rules. EPA estimates nationally that between about 6% and 10% of the 66,000 public drinking water systems subject to this rule may have to take action to reduce PFAS to meet these new standards. All public water systems have three years to complete their initial monitoring for these chemicals. They must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water. Monitoring and notification is already required in Massachusetts. Where PFAS is found at levels that exceed the new federal standards, systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water within five years.

The new limits in this rule are achievable using a range of available technologies and approaches including granular activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange systems. For example, the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, serving Wilmington, NC – one of the communities most heavily impacted by PFAS contamination – has effectively deployed a granular activated carbon system to remove PFAS regulated by this rule. Drinking water systems will have flexibility to determine the best solution for their community.

More details about the final PFAS drinking water standards:

  • For PFOA and PFOS, EPA is setting a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal, a non-enforceable health-based goal, at zero. This reflects the latest science showing that there is no level of exposure to these contaminants without risk of health impacts, including certain cancers.
  • EPA is setting enforceable Maximum Contaminant Levels at 4.0 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS, individually. This standard will reduce exposure from these PFAS in our drinking water to the lowest levels that are feasible for effective implementation.
  • For PFNA, PFHxS, and “GenX Chemicals,” EPA is setting the MCLGs and MCLs at 10 parts per trillion.
  • Because PFAS can often be found together in mixtures, and research shows these mixtures may have combined health impacts, EPA is also setting a limit for any mixture of two or more of the following PFAS: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and “GenX Chemicals.”

EPA is issuing this rule after reviewing extensive research and science on how PFAS affects public health, while engaging with the water sector and with state regulators to ensure effective implementation. EPA also considered 120,000 comments on the proposed rule from a wide variety of stakeholders.

Background:

PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals,’ are prevalent in the environment. PFAS are a category of chemicals used since the 1940s to repel oil and water and resist heat, which makes them useful in everyday products such as nonstick cookware, stain resistant clothing, and firefighting foam. The science is clear that exposure to certain PFAS over a long period of time can cause cancer and other illnesses. In addition, PFAS exposure during critical life stages such as pregnancy or early childhood can also result in adverse health impacts.

Across the country, PFAS contamination is impacting millions of people’s health and wellbeing. People can be exposed to PFAS through drinking water or food contaminated with PFAS, by coming into contact with products that contain PFAS, or through workplace exposures in certain industries.

TRWA Submits Comments in Support of New CWA Permit for Fall River

On March 4th TRWA submitted comments in support of EPA’s new draft Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for Fall River, MA. TRWA noted that the last time this permit was reissued was December 7, 2000 making this action overdue. The permit is important because it contains effluent limitations and a schedule for removing nitrogen a potent pollutant driving algae blooms and low dissolved oxygen levels in the Taunton River estuary and Mount Hope Bay.

Middleborough, Mansfield, and Brockton currently have upgraded wastewater treatment facilities which remove nitrogen. Bridgewater and Taunton have upgraded facilities for nitrogen removal under construction which are scheduled for completion the end of 2024. Bridgewater is scheduled for phosphorus removal in 2027.

This leaves Somerset and Fall River as the only two major wastewater treatment facilities in the Taunton River watershed without new permits requiring nitrogen removal. The public comment period on the Fall River permit closes on April 1, 2024.

A copy of TRWA’s comments on the Fall River draft permit may be found at this link.

This permit also has conditions concerning Fall River’s 18 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) which adversely impact water quality. These conditions include monitoring, effluent limitations and dye studies for the city’s two CSO treatment facilities. In the permit fact sheet EPA states that it intends to issue an updated CSO Administrative Order by the end of 2024 with a schedule for additional CSO abatement projects to be completed in the next five years. TRWA noted in it’s comments that the city first received a CSO court order 32 years ago but still has major overflow events. TRWA asked for an aggressive order and program which takes advantage of all available funding.

TRWA Submits Comments in Support of a New CWA Permit for Somerset

On January 30th TRWA submitted comments in support of EPA’s new draft Clean Water Act (CWA) permit for Somerset, MA. TRWA noted that the last time this permit was reissued was May 14, 2004 making this action overdue. The permit is important because it contains effluent limitations and a schedule for removing nitrogen a potent pollutant driving algae blooms and low dissolved oxygen levels in the Taunton River estuary and Mount Hope Bay.

Middleborough, Mansfield, and Brockton currently have upgraded wastewater treatment facilities which remove nitrogen. Bridgewater and Taunton have upgraded facilities for nitrogen removal under construction which are scheduled for completion the end of 2024.

This leaves Somerset and Fall River as the only two major wastewater treatment facilities in the Taunton River watershed without new permits requiring nitrogen removal. The public comment period on the Somerset permit closed on February 5, 2024.

A copy of TRWA’s comments on the Somerset draft permit my be found at this link.

Recently, EPA put a draft CWA permit for Fall River on public notice with a close of the public comment period on April 1, 2024. TRWA will be submitting comments on the draft Fall River Permit soon.

 

TRWA and TRSC Submit Comments on Claremont Corp. Phase 4 at Lake NIp

On behalf of the Taunton River Watershed Alliance (TRWA), the Wild and Scenic Taunton River Stewardship Council (TRSC) and our membership both organizations submitted comments to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office on the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Report: Lakeshore Center Phase 4 Bridgewater, MA Dated September 15, 2023 submitted by Claremont Companies. Click on this link for our comments.

This is the fourth phase of major Claremont Company development in the small Lake Nippenicket headwaters sub-watershed. TRWA and TRSC believe the lake and sub-watershed are already clearly showing adverse impact from previously completed phases.

As we did in previous comments on June 14, 2022 and January 22, 2023 we asked the applicant to show that the Lake Nippenicket sub-watershed and Raynham well’s aquifer have capacity to assimilate the phosphorus, bacteria and toxics (metals, PFAS, organics) from the impervious surfaces of both the existing and proposed phases of development.

The evidence available indicates that this sensitive site which was designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in 1989 has reached its full development potential. Lake Nippenicket and the Raynham Center Water District’s aquifer are over their capacity to absorb more pollution. The company has not monitoring Lake Nippenicket and the aquifer to determine what further measures are needed to mitigate the water quality harm from their already completed phases of development.

The Taunton River Watershed Alliance, Inc. (TRWA), and the Wild & Scenic Taunton River Stewardship Council (TRSC) requested that a MEPA approval not be granted and further expansion of this development be prohibited.

Full 2023 Sampling Year Results Available on Website

Our October sampling results are in so we now have the full 2023 sampling year April through October on the website at the Water Quality Monitoring tab if you click on the sample bottles picture or link in the Documents section.

Our 2023 sampling results were very useful and instructive. They clearly show the influence of climate change generated intense rainstorms in July and September. The high stormwater runoff from these storms increased total phosphorus levels and greatly increased bacteria levels which are the fingerprints of inadequate management of stormwater throughout the watershed. We obviously will be working with our statewide watershed organization partners to get the state and EPA to update their inadequate stormwater regulation.

During the dryer months like June and October we saw the familiar pattern of too much nitrogen for the health of the Taunton River estuary and Mount Hope Bay. TRWA and our partners Save The Bay in Rhode Island met with EPA Region 1 recently and obtained a commitment from EPA to issue draft permits for the long overdue Somerset and Fall River Clean Water Act permits with nitrogen effluent limitations similar to the 5 upriver plants by February of 2024. We will be checking in with EPA after the first of next year and intend to hold them to their commitment.

Finally, as mentioned last month A recent Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program (SNEP) newsletter mentioned that MassDEP’s two continuous monitoring buoys in Mount Hope Bay are now measuring more water quality violations in wet years. Before 4 of the 5 up river wastewater treatment plants were upgraded (Taunton is still under construction) the situation was reversed with poorer water quality measured in the Bay during drier years. This underscores as does our monitoring the need to complete nitrogen removal upgrades for all the watershed’s 7 major treatment plants and for much better regulation and treatment of stormwater. It also shows the need for reducing and finally eliminating Fall River’s combined sewer overflows.

September Sampling Results

Our most recent sampling summary spreadsheets showing the results for April through September are available here and at the Water Quality Monitoring TRWA website home page tab if you click on the sample bottles picture or link in the Documents section.

September was our wettest sampling day (highest streamflow) this season and like July, another wet sampling day we measured large bacteria water quality standards violations at all of our 20 monitoring locations. This means a lot more improvement is needed in management of stormwater pollution in the watershed.

Despite the extra dilution of wastewater treatment plant effluent by the high September streamflow we still saw some relatively high nitrogen levels underscoring the need to finish the Taunton WWTP nitrogen removal upgrade and the need for permit reissuance with nitrogen removal upgrade schedules for Somerset and Fall River.

A recent Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program (SNEP) newsletter mentioned that MassDEP’s two continuous monitoring buoys in Mount Hope Bay are now measuring more water quality violations in wet years. Before 4 of the 5 up river wastewater treatment plants upgraded the situation was reversed with poorer water quality measured in the Bay during drier years. This underscores as does our monitoring the need to complete nitrogen removal upgrades for all the watershed’s 7 major treatment plants and for much better regulation and treatment of stormwater. It also shows the need for reducing and finally eliminating Fall River’s combined sewer overflows.

Our Annual Taunton River Tide Calendar

                                                                           
 

The TRWA publishes an annual calendar fundraiser with the local Taunton River Tides.

The calendar, featuring wildlife and scenery within the Taunton River Watershed, is comprised of work from local photographers who are chosen from our Calendar Contest. The Contest is open throughout the year with submissions of up to 5 photos due by September 1st. The entries are judged by the TRWA Board of Directors.

Calendars are available for $20 at TRWA’s Watershed Center at Sweets Knoll State Park beginning November 1st.  Please call ahead at 508-828-1101 for times when the Center will be open.  A limited number of calendars will be available for a discounted price of $15 at the TRWA’s Annual Meeting on November 4th at Bristol County Agricultural High School from 4PM-7PM. 

You can also order calendars online with $10 of the cost going directly to the TRWA.

To view and order our TIDE calendar, follow this link: http://www.calendarlink.org/trwa/home.html.

Want to customize our TRWA calendar?  Would you like it to start in, say, June, or be printed with the tide data from another NOAA tide station, or printed without any tide data? Click this link for detailed instructions on how to order a custom calendar. how_to_order_online     

A list of the 2024 photographers can be found here.

    

 

 

August Sampling Results

Our most recent sampling summary spreadsheets showing the results for April through August are available here and at the Water Quality Monitoring TRWA website home page tab if you click on the sample bottles picture or link in the Documents section.

In August we sampled just before a large rainstorm. River flow was still relatively high from an unusually wet summer but not as high as it might have been. Like last month despite high stream flow to dilute wastewater discharges we saw elevated nitrate concentration values in the Matfield River and Taunton main stem. This, demonstrates a watershed with too much nitrogen and illustrates the importance of EPA issuing new permits to Somerset and Fall River with nitrogen reduction requirements to help reduce overall nitrogen in the estuary. As mentioned last month TRWA and Save The Bay in RI have a meeting scheduled with EPA Region 1 to discuss permit issuance.

The high stormwater runoff resulted in elevated phosphorus measured in-stream at several locations illustrating a need for better stormwater management in the watershed. As mentioned last month, we are pleased that EPA Region 1 was recently ordered by federal court to improve stormwater management in the Charles, Mystic and Neponset River watersheds around Boston by requiring permits for currently unregulated commercial sources. With this recent decision, the EPA has a clear timeline: they are required to issue these draft permits by September 2024, which is a huge step for ensuring cleaner water in local Boston rivers! Read the CLF article here>>. The hope is this program will be expanded to the Taunton River watershed which similarly has documented water quality standards violations caused by stormwater.

All locations violated the bacteria water quality standards but by smaller margins than last month. This is a result of inadequate stormwater management. There is a working group attempting to develop updated stormwater regulations for new development since February 2020 read about the working group here but the pace is glacial while more intense storms caused by climate change are happening now. TRWA is working with the other state watershed groups to try to hasten this effort. We also support action to regulate stormwater from large existing commercial development which was the subject of the Charles River lawsuit mentioned above.