The Town of Halifax hosted a presentation and public hearing Thursday, Dec. 15 in the Great Hall of the Halifax Town Hall, 499 Plymouth St., given by the Division of Watershed Management Bureau of Water Resources, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection of a Draft focusing on Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for Total Phosphorus in four ponds in the Towns of Halifax, Hanson and Pembroke Massachusetts. The 128-page draft identified the problems causing toxic algae blooms and proposed solutions to making the ponds healthy again.
The four ponds, West Monponsett Pond, East Monponsett Pond, White Oak Reservoir (a.k.a. ‘reservoir’) and Stetson Pond are hydraulically connected and are impaired by nutrients, specifically phosphorus. This Draft TMDL Report is required by the EPA Federal Clean Water Act section 303d and is directed at control of excessive cyanobacteria, algae and non-rooted weeds (duckweed) which impair uses in the ponds, including swimming, and aquatic life.
A TMDL is essentially a “pollution budget” designed to restore the health of an impaired body of water.
The DEP representatives discussed and explained the draft document and responded to questions and comments on the report.
Kimberly Walsh, Dave Johnson, Matthew Reardon and Mark Mattson, all of the DEP spoke to the draft report and took questions from the 40-50 people in attendance.
Also present were Halifax selectmen Chairman Troy Garron and Kim Roy, as well as State Rep. Tom Calter, who has been vocal in his support of the ponds.
Monponsett Pond System encompasses both East and West Monponsett ponds, Stetson Pond and White Oak Watershed Resevoir.
TMDL = Pollution Budget
Total Maximum Daily Load, TMDL, is the maximum amount of pollution which each pond or waterbody can withstand to maintain an acceptable level of water quality.
“We cannot overenrich the water … the water has to be safe to drink,” Walsh said. Secondly has to be acceptable for recreation, and then has to be able to support aquatic life. Among some of the challenges to cleaning up West Monponsett Pond with heavy doses of alum, are the two protected fresh water mollusks, the Tidewater Mucket and the Eastern Pond Mussel. Alum doses must me monitored so as not to destroy the protected species.
Walsh explained the “target” her staff has developed to maintain water quality, .025 parts per liter of phosphorous in the ponds.
That’s a big goal.
DEP reps spoke of the rapid clearing of the pond with alum treatments – then follow-up with limiting the phosphorus coming into the ponds. DEP officials claimed that alum treatments on a continuing basis would help keep the pond free of algae.
Kim Roy spoke up saying she and Halifax are not looking for a “quick fix”, she wants to clean up the pond the right way – the natural way, for a long-term continuing solution.
Rep. Tom Calter asked why the draft report didn’t take into consideration the 24% phosphorus reduction that stopping Brockton from diverting water from the Monponsett ponds would bring. “Who told you not to use that in this report,” he furthered.
Calter was answered by a DEP official’s statements that stopping water diversions wouldn’t solve the problem, and that there are other means to solve the problem, while protecting Brockton’s legal rights to the water.
At one point, a Brockton Water Commissioner stood and said, “I’m the bad guy here!” Saying that all he was hearing about was diversions when there are other solutions to be used.
Rep Calter asked how the report can ignore a cause that’s 24% of the problem? Don’t you agree that the diversions exacerbate the problem? DEP agreed, but did not want to use stopping the diversions as part of the solution.
The DEP representative said the diversions were having some impact but their working conclusions were that the diversions in accordance with the law don’t matter enough to become part of the solution. They further claimed they are working with Brockton to help solve the problem. “You’ve all seen the graph and it’s focused on nutrients and how to control them. “
What these folks are tasked to do is what is the best, quickest way of how to get to a clean pond. They’re looked at nutrients, where they come from now and in the future, and how to stop them. This draft is a road map. It says nutrients are the biggest problem and nutrients can be treated with alum.
We try to look at the law, the license, the fact that Brockton has registrations, we have nutrients coming into the pond, and come up with a response. We are working with Brockton, but stopping the diversions alone wont’ get us there.
Calter: I know that diversions alone won’t get us there. Why won’t the final report say, they will be 24% better. Silver Lake cannot continue to provide the 11 million gallons Brockton requires.“
Troy Garron asked if they could open up the dam to let the water flow to clean up the pond.
“Brockton has a legal right to have the dam,” was the answer.
He said that they have looked at all the models, all the range of solutions, and the supporting documentation, and how much nutrients are flowing in there, as well as a timeline to get the ponds healthy. We’re working on an agreement with Brockton Identifying the best path forward.
A Brockton water commissioner, identifying himself as “I’m the bad guy here… all I hear is diversion, Here’s your chance, your opportunity – you’ve got Mr. Calter her to go out and seek the funds. Diversion isn’t going to solve the problem!”
Calter answered, You’re right,
Excessive phosphorous is the cause of the nutrients in the water, causing the algae bloom.
Selectman Roy said, “We’ve had many meetings with you – maybe it will not solve it, and by the way – we have treated the pond with our own tax dollars. I want to fix the pond in the right way.”
Asking for order and reason, the DEP rep asked that the comments be written and sent for consideration.
Stating that all have a right to be heard and their comments considered, he invited each to write their comments and concerns on the draft report and the hearing by the deadline of Monday, January 16, 2017, by 5 p.m.
A copy of this Draft TMDL Report, a complete listing of all lakes, rivers and coastal waters on the Massachusetts Impaired Waters (303d) list and further explanation of the TMDL Program, is available online at:
Based on the comments received, the Draft Report will be rewritten and the final version sent to the USEPA for approval. All comments should refer to the report number (CN 446.0) and must be received by 5:00 pm on Monday, January 16, 2017. Please submit comments electronically to Matt Reardon, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by US Mail to MassDEP, Attn: Matt Reardon, Watershed Planning Program, 8 New Bond Street, Worcester, MA 01606.