Town River Clean Up- RFP Deadline June 30th

Taunton River Stewardship Council is seeking contractors with environmental planning and tree work experience to address several locations of instream wood within the Taunton River Watershed. This long-term project will focus on the communities of Halifax, Bridgewater, Middleboro, Raynham, Taunton, Dighton, Berkley, Freetown, Somerset, and Fall River. The first project for consideration is the Town River in Bridgewater, MA. Bids due June 30th.

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.


NRCS Statewide Local Working Group Survey and Meeting Announcement

On September 29 at 12:00 noon, the NRCS will host a statewide Local Working Group meeting over Zoom. Please note: even if you cannot attend the meeting, you can make your voice heard by filling out the NRCS survey, linked below. Answers to this survey will not only structure the LWG meeting, but will also guide our work going forward.

This survey and meeting are an opportunity to provide input on natural resource priorities for the NRCS and the state conservationist. Agricultural producers, owners/operators of nonindustrial private forest land, professionals representing agricultural and natural resource interests, and individuals representing a variety of disciplines in the soil, water, wetland, plant, forestry, and wildlife sciences are all welcome.

For more information on local working groups, see What are Local Working Groups

Please fill out this survey at least one week prior to the meeting (September 22 deadline). This survey will help us structure the meeting so that it responds to your needs. A list of definitions of the resource concerns listed in the survey can be found here. Again, even if you cannot attend the meeting, please fill out this survey—answers to this survey will guide our work beyond the statewide Local Working Group meeting.

To receive the link to the meeting, please RSVP by emailing Austin Miles at

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.

How to celebrate World Turtle Day…

World Turtle Day was started in 1990 by the American Tortoise Rescue organization to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world.   At the Taunton River Watershed Alliance (TRWA) we like to celebrate World Turtle Day the best way possible, by releasing head-started threatened Northern Diamondback Terrapins back into the wild. 

The Bristol Aggie NRM Junior Class getting ready to measure their charges one more time before release

The TRWA is working with the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to conduct a population study: a multi-year project looking at the numbers, age and distribution of the Diamondback in the Taunton River Watershed.  All work is conducted under a State Endangered Species Permit and will ultimately help the State manage and conserve this threatened species.  This spring will be the seventh year that TRWA volunteers have collected, documented, tagged and released individual Diamondback Terrapins in the Taunton River Watershed.  To date, 299 terrapins have been tagged.  For the last two years, two private property owners have allowed TRWA volunteers access to their land to collect and tag females after nesting.   In 2021, four nests were screen protected to prevent predators from eating the nests.  Half of the hatchlings that came from those four nests were released in August and the other half were sent to be head-started at the Natural Resources Management (NRM) Department at the Bristol County Agricultural High School (BCAHS.)

Head-starting is a conservation practice that helps dwindling turtle species.  Eggs or hatched young are raised for a season in artificial, protected conditions to give them a “head start.”  When released, they are often large enough to escape any further predation. 

These turtles believe it or not are the same age

At BCAHS, the 19 hatchlings were assigned to NRM Head Start project managers Grace Jackson, Faithanne Lackie, and Shanna McCarty.  Wild Diamondback Terrapins normally spend the winter in a semi-dormant state.  But Jackson, Lackie, and McCarty spent all of their senior year trying to trick the hatchlings into thinking it was summer and eating as much as they possibly could.  Faithanne Lackie, who will be attending Bridgewater State University in the fall, said the greatest challenge was the unknown.  The three girls could tell several head starts were ailing. Despite their attempts to change temperatures, diet, and care, four terrapins died. Shanna McCarty, who will be studying to be a Water Quality Technician at Bristol Community College, said they didn’t know whether it was illness or infection or malnutrition.  She holds up a tiny terrapin with the number 18 painted on its shell with bright pink nail polish.  Its as small as the day it arrived and clearly has not responded to all their doting care.  Right next to number 18, Grace Jackson, who will be studying Marine Biology and Aquaculture/Aquarium Science at Roger Williams University in the fall, holds up #1, which has thrived and is as big as her fist.  “It was exciting getting to watch them grow.” 

Bristol Aggie NRM Seniors Faithanne Lackie, Shanna McCarty, and Grace Jackson

On Friday, May 20th, National Endangered & Threatened Species Day, the three girls packed up their charges in bins with damp burlap to be sent back to the beaches where they hatched.  They were joined by fellow NRM students, TRWA Terrapin Study volunteers, and the private landowners to send 5 of the head-start terrapins off.  On Sunday, the 22nd, the remaining 9 were released in a second location.  Head-start #1 and #13 were big enough to be pit tagged.   Will #1 and #13 survive to return in seven years to lay a nest where their mother did?  Many of the volunteers that day hope so. 

Newly released head start heads towards freedom

Click here for a short video clip of one of the newly released head starts doing what Diamondbacks do best: IMG_3147