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St. Margaret Regional School, Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts


Pam Caradimos


The Agawam River Project is a river study project for 8th grade students at St. Margaret Regional School which is located in Buzzards Bay, in Southeastern Massachusetts. The mouth of the Agawam River where the river converges with the Wankinco River and the Wareham River in Wareham, is located approximately 5 km from the school. The headwaters of the river where the water overflows from Halfway Pond in Plymouth, is approximately 15 to 20 km away from the school. The river, ultimately as an estuary system, flows into the Buzzards Bay Watershed. Here, the fresh water of the three converging rivers mixes with the salt water of Buzzards Bay influenced by tides. Over the past 10 years, ten 8th grade classes have collected samples and studied the physical and chemical properties of the Agawam River. The total number of participants is approximately 200 students. The data collected has been compiled into books depicting each year. This project has been showcased at the Barnstable County Fair, Americorps Environmental Exhibits, the Wareham Library, and St. Margaret Regional School.

The chemical properties of river data collected have been sampled by sophisticated equipment, such as the HydroLab and Sigma, and by student collection using hands on Hach kits and turbidity tubes. Both methods have been valid systems of measurement when compared to one another over the years. The physical properties of river data collected have been collected by recording observations of the physical surroundings and by using nets and buckets to collect macroinvertebrates. The collection of macroinvertebrates is taken back to the classroom where density population is calculated. Often, the macroinvertebrates are released back into the river. Rare and healthy species are counted, but are not taken from the river. Over the past ten years, the chemical properties of our river study has proved the river to be a stable system. Nitrogen levels have been stable, turbidity is healthy, phosphorus levels are normal, and dissolved oxygen and temperature is consistent. One year, we found a high level of phosphorus, and when we investigated we found out that Wareham's Water Pollution Control Facility was in the process of upgrading the Facility to a Phosphorus and Nitrogen Removal Upgrade. The collection of macroinvertebrates often varies from year to year, depending on river flow, temperatures, anaerobic or aerobic soil, and influx of runoff. One year, we did find a higher amount of tolerant macroinvertebrates. We concluded that the surrounding soil was anaerobic, due to suffocation of the soil in an area of a tightly rooted river bank in orange colored soil, which most likely was iron. The physical surroundings of our study system has been changed over the past five years, due to a project by the DEP to barrier and control the flow of the water from the surrounding ponds into the river. We have observed that this has improved an area of extreme anaerobic soil to a faster flow which is helping the dissolved oxygen levels in this particular area.

The students have researched the historical data of the river and have learned that Daniel Webster fished at this river and they have observed the ruins of a rolling mill. Agawam means "a place where fish are caught" from the Agawam tribes in the 1600s. Fish ladders exist along the river for the herring to still find their way to Halfway Pond to spawn.

Creative Commons License

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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