Everyone on the South Shore wants healthy rivers… clean, swimmable, fishable waters and vibrant shellfish beds open year-round. So do we! To reach this goal, we are helping people and organizations take steps to monitor and reduce toxic stormwater runoff.

The North and South Rivers are both National Park Service National Natural Landmarks and classified by the state as “Outstanding Resource” (Class SA) waters. However, you might be surprised to know that both rivers are also categorized by the state as “impaired” by fecal coliform bacteria. Because of high bacterial counts, our shellfish beds are closed five months of the year. And in the North River–the only scenic protected river in our state–mercury is evident in the fish living in the headwaters.

The primary source of bacteria and other contaminants in our rivers is stormwater runoff. During rainstorms, pollutants wash into the rivers–these include salt and oil from roadways and parking lots, sand and debris from construction sites, chemicals from our lawns, and runoff from landfills.

RiverWatch Water Quality Monitoring Report for 6-11-19

What a great start to this year’s Riverwatch Water Quality Testing. Accompanied by some wicked rain, a group of seven NSRWA members and volunteers went to ten different sites (listed above) around watershed on June 11th. At each location, we carefully collected sample bottles that were to be used to gather data on enterococcus and fecal coliform, two common standards of water quality. Also at each stop, we used a meter to determine levels of dissolved oxygen, conductivity, salinity, and temperature. All of this information will be gathered each week throughout the summer, as well as compared to previous year’s, in order to determine how our water is actually doing.

After almost three hours of gathering data and samples, we dropped off 11 bottles to be analyzed at Morrell Associates in Marshfield. Once they ran their tests and sent us the data, we compared it to the swimming and shell fishing standards. For enterococcus, only one site, the Willow Street Bridge, exceeded the swimming standard of 400 per 100 mL. Unfortunately, four out of the four shell fishing sites exceeded the limit for fecal coliform limit of 104 per 100 mL. This is concerning and is something we will be on the lookout for as the rest of the season goes on. For the other tests, there were no significant pieces of data. The biggest take away from our first week is how cold this water can get, getting as low as 13.4 degrees Celsius (56 Fahrenheit) by the North River Mouth. We’ve had a great start to our monitoring program and we are looking forward to a very productive summer.

Better Water Quality, Together

We work with our Riverwatch volunteers to monitor bacteria and other water quality parameters. We help watershed communities implement town-wide regulatory changes and the latest green techniques to naturally manage stormwater runnoff. Through our Greenscapes program, we help homeowners learn about stormwater pollution and actions they can take in their own backyards to reduce it.

We also partner with MassBays and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to encourage South Shore communities to pass stormwater bylaws that enable towns to regulate the runoff associated with new construction. Finally, we continue to support the concept of stormwater utilities user fees, a sustainable way to secure funding for ongoing stormwater infrastructure maintenance.

To join us in improving the quality of our local waters, contact Sara P. Grady, Ecologist/South Shore Regional Coordinator for MassBays Program, at sara@nsrwa.org.

Interested in Volunteering? Fill out this registration form!