Indian Head River Study




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Hanson Middle School, Hanson, Massachusetts


Anita Kofton


The Indian Head River is part of the large and complex system of streams and rivers, which contribute to the South Coastal Plain Watershed. A portion of the river forms the border to the Town of Hanson from where it flows into the main stem of the North River. Further upstream, the river is called the Drinkwater which itself drains into Factory Pond directly upstream of our study site A.

Historically the Indian Head, it’s headwaters and tributaries provided an important fishery for alewives, shad and rainbow smelt. However, the river suffered much the same as other river systems in Massachusetts and fish runs were diverted and dammed for agricultural and industrial purposes. Today, fish that are caught in the river are most likely contaminated with mercury and other metals, which are present in the sediment of Factory Pond, the site of a Fireworks factory.

Our study intended to focus on the impact of roadsalt washing into the river at the State Street Bridge. Instead, considering the mild winter and our inability to obtain reliable baseline data on salt concentrations, we decided to focus on the high concentrations of nitrates found in our initial investigations in October. Though we expected to find lower ratios of Nitrogen to Phosphorus in subsequent samplings in January, we found that these had actually risen. In an effort to quantify bacteriological information, we took samples in February, however the water was cold and coliform growth was inconclusive.

Although pH readings at the downstream site were consistently lower than those found below Factory Pond, the effect upon macroinvertebrate populations was negligible, species of caddisfly larvae making up close to 90% of the population sampled at both sites.


  • Continue monitoring for Phosphorus and Nitrogen levels in the 2002/2003 school year in order to get a better picture of seasonal changes.
  • Expand the study area to include the Indian Head Brook, which hydrologically links Maquan Pond to Wampatuck Pond in Hanson and empties into Indian Head River approximately mid-point between our two existing study sites.
  • Obtain warm water samples for bacteriological analysis in both the fall and the spring in order to confirm or rule out septic system leakage as a possible source of high Nitrogen levels.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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