On Thursday, January 26, 2023, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries informed the towns of Scituate and Marshfield to close the North and South Rivers shellfish beds after being notified by the Town of Rockland Sewer Commission that they had a “discharge or overflow consists of or is likely to consist of untreated or partially treated sewage” into French’s Stream. According to the town of Rockland’s sewer website, the 5″ of rain on Wednesday resulted in excess water above the 6 MGD capacity of their holding tanks. The excess water is processed and chlorinated before being discharged into the receiving watershed, French’s Stream. The estimated volume was 100,000 gallons. The receiving waterbody is French’s Stream which flows into Forge Pond, then into the Drinkwater River which flows into the Indian Head River, which eventually flows into the North River. The town of Rockland’s website pointed to its aging infrastructure and the inflow and infiltration (I/I) of water into its pipes as the cause of this problem.
The I/I and overflow issue has been an outstanding concern of the NSRWA for years. In 2006, the NSRWA appealed the town’s National Pollution Discharge Permit (NPDES) Clean Water Act permit that allows Rockland to discharge into French’s Stream over this very same issue. In 2022, a new order to comply with the Clean Water Act was issued by the US EPA. Currently, the town of Rockland is working to resolve these overflow issues and is undergoing a Comprehensive Wastewater Planning process. In the meantime, a sewer hook-up moratorium was instituted again in July 2021. Stay tuned.
As for the shellfishing closure, the MassDMF is currently evaluating the situation and will notify the towns and the shellfish warden when it is safe to reopen the shellfish beds. If you are a shellfish permit holder you should have been notified via email or phone – if not, please call the town clerk in the town you hold a shellfishing permit in and make sure they have your correct contact information.