The Mattapoisett River Valley Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee heard from David Wong of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection during the former’s monthly public meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and the message about the invasive species discovered at Snipatuit Pond in Rochester and the Mattapoisett River Watershed is that they have spread, but on the other hand, “the good news is that it’s not that bad.”
Sharing his screen in the Zoom meeting, Wong brought up startling graphics indicating that Asian Clams are infesting Massachusetts lakes and rivers and “change the whole ecological system.”
This species was not found in the state prior to 23 years ago and started in the Charles River. Wong says that climate change is what has allowed the clams to find their way throughout the Massachusetts coastline and toward the central region of the state. In many regions of Massachusetts, their sightings are up from 2016 in data realized in 2019 but not locally.
Citing Mass DEP field data, Wong also went through three distinct kinds of invasive species, Fanwort, Reed Grass (phragmites) which have grown up to an “unimaginable” 27 feet high in Concord, and Swollen Bladderwort.
While a mechanical cutting of rooted phragmites below the water line cuts off the oxygen supply for the plant and effectively drowns them, Swollen Bladderwort floats and has no roots.
Wong compared Swollen Bladderwort to a bacteria and said it eats tiny animals. While dominant in eastern Massachusetts, Snow’s Pond is the only waterbody with data showing Swollen Bladderwort.
“You don’t need to spend a lot of money or a lot of time,” said Wong, noting that expensive efforts to eradicate phragmites “are not that good.”
Three phases of response have proven successful when working together: eradication, containment and long-term management.
Showing a tracing map indicated that boating brings invasives to Massachusetts from out of state as far away as Idaho via dragging on boat carriers and inside piping, Wong suggested two measures, a mechanical one including hot water and pressure washing of the boat, and an acid-chemical herbicide.
“Dog Detector Popeye” is a successful example of how well-trained canines sniff out invasives and give their boat owners an advantage.
There are four distinct funding opportunities available via the state to take preventive measures, and Wong left his contact information for the committee’s use.
Upon conclusion of the MRV Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee, the MRV Water District Commission opened its public meeting with the addition of Mattapoisett Town Administrator (and voting member) Mike Lorenco.
In reporting to the commission, Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Department Superintendent Henri Renauld said Borden & Remington has invoiced the MRV $12,751.83 for its six-week chemicals delivery, part of $29,018 in October expenditures.
Tata & Howard representative Jon Gregory told the commission that he emailed a FY25 draft budget to the members on November 6. Having put the budget together with subcommittee members Vinnie and Jeff Furtado, Renauld and Meghan Davis, Gregory said the FY25 budget represents a 1.4% increase from FY24.
Member David Pierce asked why capital costs decreased; Gregory traced the reduction to the procurement process for the new filtering system now being funded with loans. He said the MRV needs to continue building up funds for the next filter changeover in 10 to 15 years. Administration fees doubled because a different loan is being managed.
The plan is for the commissioners to vote on the FY25 budget at the MRV’s next meeting on December 12.
Pierce called the FY25 budget “a very modest increase compared to other boards and committees, I’m delighted.”
Regarding the Water Treatment Plant project upgrade, Gregory said Tata & Howard representatives met with Koch representatives on March 2 at the plant, as the designer of the new filtration system needed to audit electrical and instrument components at the facility. Gregory and MassDEP are tentatively scheduled to meet virtually on November 30 to discuss design.
An emergency response management training course was conducted November 1-2 at the Music Hall, and Gregory thanked Davis for procuring the famed venue.
The commissioners voted to authorize Tata & Howard to prepare the annual report; the plan is to have a draft ready at the MRV’s January meeting.
In his Water Treatment Plant operations update, Renauld said the plant is running “fairly well” and noted that Fairway LLC removed all the tornado-damaged trees. The fence has been taken away, and poles are going in to anchor a new fence.
The facility is using small heaters for now and anticipates updates to electrical panels the week after Thanksgiving. Renauld said another generator is coming in and that all coordination is with the insurance company for each repair project.
In other news, Jeff Furtado reported that the member town of Fairhaven is officially off chlorine. “Complaints have dropped off immensely,” he said, noting that there are a couple of areas with discolored water that he described as “light tea” rather than the “dark red or black” the town was seeing. “What we did help immensely, it really did.”
In other Advisory Committee business, Jeff Furtado delivered his Treasurer’s Report, saying he still needs to reconcile with Fairhaven Town Hall on the committee’s June 30 bank balance. For the four-month period from July through October, Furtado reported total payments of $14,318.63 and a total interest of $144.60 from Rockland Trust over that time.
“Hopefully next month I will reconcile everything with Ann (Carreiro),” he said, noting that since receiving bank statements and ledger numbers from different sources he requires a meeting so the figures can be reconciled.
Fairhaven’s assessment payment was processed on October 16, and representatives of Marion and Mattapoisett indicated that their payments are in process.
MRV Chairman Vinnie Furtado added a request to pay on new invoices to Tata & Howard ($1,111.25), Dave Watling ($251.72) and Blair Bailey ($50.) The committee voted to authorize him to pay the invoices.
The committee learned that Middleborough representatives will attend the regional meeting of water officials scheduled for November 29 but that Wareham representatives cannot attend. The meeting will be held at 4:00 pm via Zoom, and MRV representatives were encouraged to invite their respective select boards and other key committees to attend.
In his Tata & Howard Report to the committee, Gregory said that another older level logger needs replacement and that together with a recent new purchase, has left the MRV with one spare. The MRV still has three original level loggers in service, so the committee voted to purchase an additional level logger so that there will be two spares.
The committee also voted to have Gregory and Tata & Howard prepare the committee’s annual report. Gregory said he intends to have a draft at the MRV’s January 2024 meeting.
Brendan Annett of the Buzzards Bay Coalition appeared briefly to invite members to a gathering Monday morning at 197 Acushnet Road in Mattapoisett to celebrate the completion of the MRV Drinking Water Resilience Project that protects 240 acres of conservation land in Mattapoisett, Acushnet and Rochester.
The next meeting of the MRV Water District Commission/Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee is scheduled for Tuesday, December 12, at 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm via Zoom.
MRV Water District Commission/Water Supply Protection Advisory Committee
By Mick Colageo