Mainstem Taunton River The Taunton River is formed by the confluence of the Matfield and Town rivers in Bridgewater and follows an approximately 40-mile course to Mount Hope Bay. The Mainstem Taunton River flows through the communities of Bridgewater, Raynham, Taunton, Dighton, Berkley, Fall River, Freetown and Somerset and includes the following four segments (Figure 8):
Taunton River (Segment MA62-01)
Taunton River (Segment MA62-02)
Taunton River (Segment MA62-03)
Taunton River (Segment MA62-04)
Land along the Mainstem Taunton River is mostly undeveloped with approximately 50% of the land in forest and 25% in residential use. The impervious cover is all less than 10% indicating that there is a low potential for adverse water quality impacts from impervious surface water runoff. Because the watershed topography is flat to low hilly, the Taunton River has one of the flattest courses in Massachusetts. Streamflow fluctuates slowly due to the low gradient; extensive wetland areas and underlying stratified drift. There are only a few short sections of rapids along the river. The absence of dams make it an important anadromous fish run by allowing fish species to reach their native spawning grounds (Nemasket River Stream Team 2003).
The Taunton River Stewardship Program, established in 1996 to promote the preservation of the upper Taunton River corridor and its major tributaries as an intact resource, has been instrumental in helping to facilitate land protection efforts along the corridor over the past six years. Thanks to the combined efforts of the Stewardship Program's partners, including the Towns of Bridgewater, Halifax, Middleborough, and Raynham, the City of Taunton, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, The Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts, the Natural Resources Trust of Bridgewater, SRPEDD, and other contributors (notably the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management), 695 acres have been protected in the towns of Bridgewater, Halifax, Middleborough, and Raynham.
The Taunton River has been proposed for a Wild and Scenic designation under the National Parks Service and the Department of the Interior. A study team comprised of representatives from local and state governments, river conservation groups, regional planning agencies and other concerned citizens has been formed. Through this process a conservation plan to protect the river's free-flowing character and significant resources will be developed.
Segment MA62-01 of the Taunton River is classified in the Surface Water Quality Standards as a Class B, Warm Water Fishery. The lower downstream portions are classified as Class SB and are identified as impacted by the discharge of CSOs. All three downstream segments of the Taunton River have been placed on the Massachusetts Year 2002 Integrated List of Waters – Category 5 as not meeting Water Quality Standards for pollutants such as pathogens and organic enrichment/low dissolved oxygen. The DMF Shellfish Status Report of 2003 indicates that shellfish harvesting is prohibited in all growing areas within these downstream segments of the Taunton River.
Three facilities have WMA permits with authorized surface and groundwater withdrawals totaling 3.27 million gallons per day (MGD). Of these three facilities, the largest withdrawal at 3.03 MGD is for the municipal public water source. The USGS has noted that flow in the upper segment of the Taunton River is affected by diversions to and from the basin for municipal water supplies. The Taunton River receives discharges from six facilities permitted through the NPDES program, which include four municipal major, one industrial major and two minor NPDES permits. Both the Taunton Wastewater Treatment Plant and the City of Fall River are authorized to discharge stormwater/wastewater from combined sewer outfalls. Both facilities have taken steps to address pollution from the combined sewer outfalls. The Taunton WWTP completed upgrades to its system in 2001/2002 and the City of Fall River has developed a three-phase program under a management plan to deal with combined sewer overflows. Additionally, there are numerous Multi-sector General Stormwater Permits for facilities in the communities of Bridgewater, Raynham, Dighton, Berkley, Somerset, Taunton and Fall River. These communities and the Town of Freetown are Phase II stormwater communities. Each community was issued a stormwater general permit from EPA and MassDEP in 2003/2004 and is authorized to discharge stormwater from their municipal drainage system. Over the five-year permit term, the communities will develop, implement, and enforce a stormwater management program to reduce the discharge of pollutants from the storm sewer system to protect water quality (Domizio 2004).
Water quality data were collected at three sites on the Taunton River during the ENSR International study. As part of the NAWQA Program the USGS also conducted monthly water quality sampling at one site. Additionally, the TRWA conducts water quality sampling at three sites and the Bridgewater State WAL does water quality monitoring at one site. Results indicated elevated phosphorus concentrations, somewhat low dissolved oxygen and % saturation levels and elevated levels of bacteria.
To summarize the detailed assessments that follow this section, the Aquatic Life Use is assessed as support in Segments MA62-01 and MA62-02 and as impaired in Segment MA 62-04 due to a reduced abundance and diversity of fish. The Shellfish Harvesting Use is assessed as impaired in all three downstream segments due to elevated bacteria counts. None of the other uses (Primary Contact and Secondary Contact Recreation and Aesthetics) have enough information to make assessments so they are not assessed.
Figure 8. Taunton River Watershed
Taunton River (Segment MA62-01)
Location: Confluence of Town and Matfield rivers, Bridgewater to Route 24 bridge, Taunton/Raynham.
Segment Length: 20.4 miles
Classification: Class B, Warm Water Fishery
The drainage area of this segment is approximately 302.3 square miles. Land-use estimates (top three) for the subwatershed:
Open land 9.0%
The impervious cover area for this subwatershed is less than 10%.
This segment is on the Massachusetts Year 2002 Integrated List of Waters – Category 3 (MassDEP 2003).
There is one site awaiting a NPL decision located in this subwatershed. The site description was excerpted from the EPA website (EPA 2005b).
The Middleborough Rockland Inc. property was operated by Rockland as a dye manufacturing facility from 1966 to 1982. The facility manufactured “dye assist” products for the textile industry. Allegedly, wastes from manufacturing processes were disposed of within a former lagoon, former filter beds, the septic system, and floor drains in one of the buildings. Analytical results of groundwater samples collected from the property in 1989 indicated the presence of 12 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In 1993 drinking water samples were taken from a nearby private well and no VOCs were detected, therefore no impacts to nearby groundwater drinking supplies are known or suspected. Stormwater runoff from the property flows west to the on-site wetlands, and eventually towards the Purchade Brook and the Taunton River. In 1968 an investigation of wastewater discharged from the property determined that the Purchade Brook had a pH of 3.2, and sediment samples taken from the brook indicated the presence of two semivolatile organic compounds and two polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Based on this investigation the impact is attributable to Rockland property. The Rockland property is classified by MassDEP as a Tier IA site and is currently in Phase II of the five-phase Massachusetts Contingency Plan.
MDFW has proposed that Basset, Puddingshear, Spring and Otis Pratt brooks, which are all tributaries to this segment of the Taunton River, be listed in the next revision of the SWQS as a cold water fisheries (Richards 2003b).
It should be noted that MDFW conducted fish population sampling with a backpack shocker at three additional tributaries to this segment in July – September 2002. Samples were collected from one station along Dean Brook, near Dean Street, Raynham (Station 727). A total of two fish, both red fin pickerel, were collected. Sampling was also conducted in Dam Lot Brook near Warren Street, Raynham (Station 731). A total of 17 fish, representing four species, were collected. American eel dominated the sample. Other species included chain pickerel, largemouth bass, and tessellated darter. Sampling of Snows Brook near Vernon Street, Bridgewater (Station 725) resulted in the collection of 17 fish, representing three species. The sample was dominated by tessellated darter (Richards 2003a).