Bridging the Gap
Finding connections between land use and water quality in the Hammond River
In 2008 and 2015, the Hammond River Angling Association (HRAA) completed Strategic Watershed Management Plans for the Hammond River. These reports found the poorest water quality in the Hammond River watershed originates from Palmer and Bradley Brook, which flow through developed areas in the towns of Rothesay and Quispamsis (Campbell and Prosser, 2008, Bradford et al., 2015). In 2017, with support from the New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, the HRAA conducted a study of these sub-catchments to identify specific land-uses causing a reduction in water quality in the Palmer and Bradley Brooks. Data was collected in 2017 and these results were used to prioritize areas and provide recommendations to guide management activities by the HRAA.
Concentrated land use (agriculture, gravel pits, commercial buildings, and residential) areas in the Palmer and Bradley Brook sub-catchments were chosen and 21 sites were placed downstream. Water quality samples were taken 3 times from July to September 2017 and were analyzed for microbiological and chemical parameters. Benthic Macroinvertebrate (BMI) samples were collected in October 2017 from 19 of the water quality sample sites. In addition, stream and bank characteristics were also recorded.
The water quality results were input into the Canadian Council of Ministries of Environment (CCME) Water Quality Index (WQI) using guidelines for the protection of aquatic life and BMIs were input into the EcoSpark Aggregate Assessment index. The results of the WQI and EcoSpark indices were combined to prioritize sites with the poorest health.
Palmer Brook has the highest rate of development and this is reflected in the studies results; Palmer Brook had overall poorer water quality compared to Bradley Brook, with exceedances of the CCME Guidelines throughout the brook for iron, E. coli, chloride, and phosphorus. Conversely, Bradley Brook had only two areas of concern: the headwaters of Bradley Brook (Bradley Lakes) and the confluence. These areas demonstrated high water temperatures, a possibly impaired BMI community, and poor to fairly-poor nutrient quality. Through land use analysis, the HRAA identified land uses that may be the cause of several exceedances in the priority sites in each area.
The E. coli exceedance in Colton Brook, a tributary of Palmer Brook, possibly originates from a residence or residences upstream. The Department of Health was notified of these findings for further investigation.
The source of high iron concentrations in Colton Brook were unidentified. Sediment and erosion control measures will be implemented to reduce the amount of iron entering this waterway.
High levels of chloride were found downstream of areas with high densities of stream crossings, in Colton Brook, suggesting that road salts are the source. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI) and sub-contractor will be contacted to identify ways to prevent chloride from entering Colton Brook. Erosion control measures and vegetation may be placed strategically along roadway ditches to help reduce chloride input into the brook.
The Bradley Lakes are a highly developed residential area with poor bank vegetation, low dissolved oxygen, high temperature, poor nutrient quality, and impaired benthic habitat. To protect the land from erosion and cool the water, partnerships with landowners will be developed to promote buffer zone restoration. Additionally, proper check dams and trees along the roadways may be installed where applicable to further improve conditions in the lake.
Phosphorus exceedances in Palmer Brook were found downstream of a privately-owned sewage lagoon for a trailer park. Phosphorus from the lagoon effluent may not be able to dilute properly due to underlying carbonate bedrock that can cause phosphorus to precipitate at an accelerated rate and remain in the area. While chemical treatments might not be realistic methods for management of phosphorus discharged from the lagoon, additional aerators, other effluent treatment processes or connecting the park to municipal sewage could improve the situation. The proper personnel at NBDELG will be informed to raise awareness of the issue.
Sites around the Palmer Brook industrial park were visibly impacted by sedimentation, litter, and erosion. While it is difficult to pinpoint the origin of sedimentation, restoration activities to reduce surface runoff and erosion could help to improve environmental quality. In the future, barren areas in the industrial park be planted extensively and erosion control measures will be implemented to protect and improve water quality.
Bradley Brook frequently has sedimentation events after large rainfalls. Residential lots border Bradley Brook and often have little to no riparian buffer and may contribute to increased sedimentation. In addition, beaver dams and ATV crossings are likely also impacting substrate dynamics. Fines may also originate from gravel pits upstream. It is recommended that the HRAA work with residential landowners to buffer riparian areas and open discussions with the Saint John ATV club to identify more environmentally friendly water crossings. Partnerships with gravel pit owners will also be pursued to help restore barren land upstream.
This study has confirmed that land use is having an impact on water quality in Palmer and Bradley Brooks, and by extension, the Hammond River. Development and growth in this region are among the highest rates in the province. Improving attitudes and behaviours towards sustainable and environmentally responsible development practices will help avoid compounding impacts to water quality in these areas, as development increases. If growth takes place with a precautionary approach, the community will be able to reduce the impacts to water quality, aquatic life and habitats, which will help to secure the culture and recreation that has persisted in this region for many years. While one of the main findings of this report are priority areas for restoration and environmental remediation, the HRAA has also identified several land use issues that may be out of the scope of our organization and can only improved by landowners, through public will, or by governmental agency. The intent of this project is to initiate and further communications with project partners, landowners and other stakeholders so that together we can work toward conserving and improving our waterways.
Communities in Action for a Better Bradley Brook
This year the HRAA will complete a 2 phase project to improve conditions in Bradley Brook. Our project Communities in Action for a Better Bradley Brook is sponsored by EcoAction through Environment and Climate Change Canada. The first phase will restore 0.4 hectares of riparian buffer from fallow pasture at the confluence of Bradley Brook with the Hammond River. Riparian trees along the brook will function to stabilize banks, reduce sedimentation, improve water filtration, and reduce overall stream temperatures. This fall the HRAA will then partner with local schools, the Town of Rothesay and Quispamsis to host a 4 km stream clean up along Bradley Brook. Bradley Brook currently has the highest density of garbage of the region and this work will require many hands! Stay tuned for volunteer stream clean up days.