Hot days, cool nights, summertime, what a delight.
River News - July 2016
Update on the Nitrogen TMDL for the Westport River
Roberta Carvalho, Science Director

On June 24 officials from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) had a public hearing on the draft report: "Westport River Estuarine System Total Maximum Daily Loads For Total Nitrogen (CN-375.0)". This draft TMDL document was released in October of 2015. TMDL stands for Total Maximum Daily Load. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can accept and still meet the state's Water Quality Standards for public health and healthy ecosystems. The federal Clean Water Act requires all states to identify waterbodies that do not meet state standards and develop TMDLs for them. WRWA supports the finalization of the TMDL so that our community can address the nutrient loading problem that is degrading the river's water quality. Many people spoke in support of approving the TMDL.  After this public hearing, we hope MADEP will finalize the TMDL.

Public comments will be accepted until July 25 and can be submitted to [email protected]

This TMDL was determined through years of scientific assessment and is specific to the Westport River. Every coastal embayment in the United States that is impaired by pollution is required by the U.S.E.P.A. to develop a unique TMDL. The Westport River Watershed Alliance was instrumental in collecting the data used to generate the Massachusetts Estuaries report; the technical report for the Westport River. WRWA was a project partner with the Coastal Systems Program at the School for Marine Science and Technology at UMASS Dartmouth. This report was the scientific basis for the regulatory TMDL report. After public comment and final approval by the EPA, the TMDL will serve as a guide for future implementation activities.

At the public hearing, DEP officials stated that the Town of Westport should work together with the DEP to begin actions to develop a Comprehensive Water Management Plan (CWMP). This plan is a guiding document to help communities decide how best to implement the TMDL in order to achieve the desired water quality goals. The TMDL process requires communities to develop a plan to restore waterbodies and make progress toward restoring ecological health. This "adaptive management" approach is based on taking action, measuring its impact, and adjusting future steps as necessary.

BOTTOM LINE IS....The Westport River needs a plan to limit the amount of nitrogen entering the river.

We know that given our current level of development and infrastructure, we are adding too much nitrogen into the river. The TMDL report will provide the state-approved proof that this nitrogen is mainly coming from the Title5 septic systems (often called onsite-wastewater treatment systems) within the watershed.

Both short term and long term goals must be established with the eventual result that nitrogen inputs from future growth must be limited, and existing inputs must be reduced. Regionally, impacted embayments must be protected and restored through a combined strategy of managing growth, reducing fertilizer use, and promoting advanced onsite sewage treatment technologies capable of reducing nitrogen. WRWA plans to be an active community partner in this planning process.
BayCoast Bank Grants $8,000 to the Westport River Watershed Alliance for Summer Interns
Shelli Costa, Education Director
Summer Interns
 Kate Massoud and Sara Canuel
Each summer, WRWA hires local college students to assist with its education and water quality monitoring programs. In recent years, this has been made possible by a grant from BayCoast Bank. This year we were lucky to find two highly qualified students who grew up in the area: Sara Canuel and Kate Massoud.
Sara is entering her senior year at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She grew up in Swansea, MA and resides there in the summer. She is pursuing two degrees with a focus on environmental studies and sociology. Sara's passion for nature started at a young age, and developed during high school through her experiences attending Bristol County Agricultural High School, where she studied arboriculture. She is especially interested in plants, and her favorite tree is a Little leaf Linden. This past January, Sara had the opportunity to travel as part of a class and spent a month studying environmental issues in Southeast Asia. The students on the trip visited different schools and this inspired Sara to pursue a more educationally focused environmental career. Working with the Westport River Watershed Alliance is giving Sara the ability to explore the field of environmental education. She will expand her knowledge of different facets of the environment such as ocean life. Sara is very thankful for the experience to work with WRWA, and is eager to work with children in hopes that they can gain a greater appreciation for their local environment, while also learning about it herself.

Kate is preparing to enter her senior year as a general biology major at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Kate grew up in Fall River and from an early age she developed an interest in the sciences. When asked about her favorite childhood memories, Kate always mentions going to local zoos and aquariums, as well as adventuring outdoors. During her time at UMass Dartmouth, Kate was involved in research that studied toxic blooms in the Charles River. Last summer, Kate collected water samples from the Charles River and ran a number of water tests to determine which nutrient was limiting or increasing the blooms' productivity. Kate also enjoys working with kids, and in the future she plans on becoming a high school biology teacher. Working at the Westport River Watershed Alliance will allow Kate to improve her skills to educate children, and to expand her knowledge of local habitats. Kate is grateful for the position at the WRWA and is eager to help educate the next generation.
BayCoast Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Christ said, "the internships offered by the WRWA give students a unique opportunity to forge connections between their academics and the real world. It's an invaluable experience that merges hands-on learning with career exploration. We are proud to once again support the WRWA and its educational programs."
WRWA Education Director Shelli Costa thanked BayCoast for its generous contribution and commented, "It's wonderful that BayCoast Bank has continued to donate to our internship program every year and supported the young adults who will be carrying on the stewardship of the Westport River."
BayCoast Bank is a mutually-owned savings bank which was chartered in 1851. Currently, the Bank serves southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with locations in Dartmouth, Fall River, Fairhaven, New Bedford, North Dighton, Seekonk, Somerset, Swansea, Westport, and Tiverton, RI. BayCoast Bank offers a wide range of financial services including investment management, trust services, and insurance and brokerage services to consumers and businesses. Its affiliates include BayCoast Financial Services, offering stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities and college savings plans; and Partners Insurance Group, LLC, an independent agency representing several insurance companies that provide automobile, home, life and business coverage. Nicholas Christ is the Bank's President and Chief Executive Officer. Main headquarters are at 330 Swansea Mall Drive, Swansea, MA 02777. For additional information on the Bank or its services, please visit or call 508-678-7641.
WRWA's Summer Gala August 13
Beautiful ocean views, great food and music, an open bar and a fascinating silent auction-that's what people call the best party in Westport, the WRWA Summer Gala. This year's theme is "Happy 40th Anniversary" as WRWA celebrates four decades of protecting the Westport River watershed.
Invitations have gone out and tickets are available on line at You can also check out the silent auction preview on line.
Don't miss it! The Gala takes place at the former Charlton Estate (access via Atlantic Avenue) at the Nubble, Saturday, August 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. For info call 508-636-3016.

Is the River Clean Enough for Swimming?
Check Our Website Weekly

Roberta Carvalho, Science Director
WRWA has been sampling the River to test for fecal coliform bacteria since 1991; monitoring for the presence of bacteria pollution. Bacteria do not generally damage the ecosystem, but can make people sick when they eat tainted seafood, or swim in contaminated water. They are also a marker to identify the possible presence of other pathogens that come from the same fecal sources. Bacteria in the River comes from human wastewater and domestic and wild animal waste. WRWA goes out every week and tests the River for fecal coliform bacteria.
You can visit our website weekly to see water testing results for the Westport River.
Go to this link:
The laboratory tests are done by the City of New Bedford Health Department Lab. WRWA's collection and analysis of samples has been utilized by the town and state
agencies to document bacterial contamination in the river. WRWA's data is not used to open and close shellfish areas, this sampling is done by the
State Division of Marine
Water quality testing results for local public beaches can be found on the state's website: 
Bacteria/pathogen pollution is transported to the river primarily by rainfall and resultant runoff. The amount, duration, intensity, and time span between rain events are factors that influence fecal coliform levels in the river. Rainfall is responsible for washing fecal coliform into the river. The amount of rainfall directly affects the amount of fecal coliform in the river. During periods of drought, fecal coliform counts in the river tend to drop significantly. When there is prolonged or large amounts of rain, the effect on fecal coliform is two-fold. First the increase in rainfall simply adds more fecal coliform to the river. Second, the rain decreases the salinity in the estuary, making it more favorable for bacterial growth. Temperature affects fecal coliform growth only when it is extremely cold. In January and February, bacterial growth is inhibited as a result of the cold water temperatures. In the months of May through December, temperature does not seem to play a role in limiting or
fostering bacterial growth. During this period the amount of rainfall is the most important factor.
Looking back at the last twenty years of WRWA's monitoring, conditions are greatly improving. These improvements have allowed state shellfish regulators to change the segments for the opening of conditional closures shellfish beds. This increases the availability of shellfish harvest potential.

Farewell Service Alliance Members
WRWA staff and board members gave a sendoff to Commonwealth Corps volunteers Shannon Choquette and Becky Buchanan (front). They served as environmental educators for ten months through Massachusetts Service Alliance

One Commonwealth Corps Position Open
at Watershed Alliance - Deadline for application is extended

The Westport River Watershed Alliance is seeking one more full time Commonwealth Corps volunteer to serve as Environmental Educator. The Commonwealth Corps volunteers will deliver our Watershed Education Programs to children in grades PreK-12, and launch additional weekend student and family education
Commonwealth Corps volunteers work with the Westport River Watershed Alliance serve 10.5 months in a full-time capacity.  Applicant should be a Massachusetts resident and have a desire to put their talents and ideas to use in the service of their communities and the Commonwealth. 

The mission of the Commonwealth Corps is to engage Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in service to strengthen communities, address unmet community needs, and increase volunteerism. Members serve in a stipended full-time
capacity from 8/15/16 - 6/24/17.
Benefits include a focus on member training and development, as well as a bi-weekly stipend, a completion award, an inspiring network of fellow members, and other supports.
Anyone interested in applying for the position should email a cover letter, resume and three references to Shelli Costa, [email protected]. For a full description, please visit our website:
A few more places open for WRWA's Summer Coastal Ecology Program  

The Westport River Watershed Alliance is again offering a fun, hands-on summer science program for kids ages 3-16.
The Coastal Explorers Program - Ages 7-9
Monday- Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Week of July 25-29. 
Children discover marine life, create eco-crafts, learn about coastal habitats and enjoy games on the beach. The fee is $160 for WRWA members,$200 for non-members.
River Edventures - Ages 9-11. Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Weeks of July 18-22 and August 8-12.
This program delves deeper into understanding our environment by learning about food chains and the creatures that make up our watershed ecosystem.  Participants will head out on WRWA's skiff to explore the Westport River. $180 for members and $220 for non-members.  
Watershed Explorers- Ages 12-16.  Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Week of August 1-5. 
In this program, participants learn about the ecology of the Westport River, visit coastal habitats and spend three days paddling on the Westport River.  The kayaking/paddle boarding portion of the program is led by certified instructors from Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures, and includes all equipment and instruction.  The fee is $360 for members and $400 for non-members. Register online at: or call 508-636-3016.

Oars and Paddles Needed!
We are already looking forward to our annual winter arts event!  Next year, we will be trying something different from our Buoy The Winter Blues show.  Artists have decided they would like to paint and decorate old oars and paddles, so we are looking for donations from our members and people in the area.  Please check the shed, garage and the boathouse for wooden oars and paddles no longer needed and drop them off at our office at 1151 Main Road, or call us at 508-636-3016 for information.
Tickets on Sale for WRWA 40th Anniversary Concert with Tom Rush
Please come to our 40th Anniversary celebration concert on July 16, withTom Rush at the Westport Rivers Vineyard, co-presented with the Narrows Center for the Arts and sponsored by Lafrance Hospitality and Andy Paige Style.
For more information, visit, or
Tickets are on sale now.
Or contact Steve at [email protected] or 508-636-3016.
Concert Information: Saturday, July 16, 6-8 p.m. Gates open at 5:00.
Rain Date: July 17.
Matt Nokoa performs with Tom Rush.
Ticket prices: $40 WRWA Members, $50 non-members. All tickets are $60 after July 9. 
Don't wait! This concert is expected to sell out.
Save Your Lees Market Receipts
Lees Market gives 1% of the receipt total to the community charities.  If you shop at Lees, please save your slips for us, the proceeds goes toward all our programs and projects that protect the River.  Lees Market grocery receipts can be dropped off at our office.  Thank you for helping and shopping at Lees!
Horseshoe Crabs (Limulus Polyphemus)
Becky Buchanan, Commonnwealth Corps educator   
Although these creatures are named horseshoe crabs, they are not actually crabs at all! They are more closely related to arachnids (a group that includes spiders and scorpions) than they are to crustaceans (a group that includes crabs, lobsters, and shrimp).

Horseshoe crabs are called "living fossils," meaning that fossils of their ancestors date back to 450 million years ago and after all those years their bodies haven't changed much at all. These creatures existed long before the dinosaurs, which really shows how ancient they are. They have a hard shell, ten legs, and some spines on their abdomen. They also molt their shells as they grow, and you can find pieces of these molts on the beach. Horseshoe crabs eat worms and mollusks.   

Horseshoe crabs have a long pointy tail, which many people believe to be used for defense. However, this tail is used by the horseshoe crab to be able to flip upright if they are accidentally turned upside down. They are not really dangerous at all!   
Horseshoe crabs gather in large groups on Westport beaches during May and June to mate. Males will attach to the larger females using hook like claws and fertilize her eggs as she lays them on the beach. This activity tends to take place during high tide in the days before and after a full moon. During their spawning season, horseshoe crab eggs become a major food source for fish and many migrating birds. The Red Knot is a shorebird that feeds on these eggs during their long migration.   

Horseshoe crabs are known for their blue blood. Humans have iron based blood, but horseshoe crabs have copper based blood. There is a substance found in their blood that will coagulate (become solid) in the presence of bacteria or toxins. If a horseshoe crab gets a wound in its murky environment, it could be susceptible to bacteria, but their blood helps clot the wound and fight infection. Because of this special substance, horseshoe crab blood is used to test for sterility in medical equipment and drugs. Horseshoe crabs are also used as bait for eels, or crushed up and used as fertilizer.

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