DEP Reports 15,882 Miles Of Streams Impaired, Down Slightly From 2012

The Department of Environmental Protection published notice that its draft 2014 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report is available for public comment listing rivers, streams and lakes with impaired water quality. 

The Monongahela River, which was impaired for potable water use, will be removed from the impairment list because the in-stream level of sulfates now meets Pennsylvania’s water quality standards.

The lower main stem of the Susquehanna River will be added to the fish consumption impairment list for channel catfish larger than 20 inches due to Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The recommended consumption is no more than one meal per month.

DEP has conducted a comprehensive analysis of the Susquehanna River since 2012 and continues to do so in 2014. The 2013 Susquehanna River Study Report will be available in mid-May. A public webinar will take place at that time to discuss the results.

Overall, the report found 15,882 miles of impaired rivers and streams, down from 16,599 miles from the last report in 2012.  The reports differ in the total number of stream miles assessed-- 83,438 in the 2014 draft report and 84,571 in the 2012 report.

The top four causes for water quality impairments are (in stream miles): Agricultural Runoff - 5,802, Abandoned Mine Drainage - 5,584 and Urban Runoff/Storm Sewers - 2,655.  Some 4,322 miles of stream are impaired for unknown reasons.

In 2012, the top four causes for water quality impairments were (in stream miles): Agricultural Runoff - 5,705, Abandoned Mine Drainage - 5,596 and Urban Runoff/Storm Sewers - 2,451.  Some 3,482 miles of stream are impaired for unknown reasons.

There are 37,761 acres of lakes with impaired water quality, up slightly from 37,331 acres in 2012.  The reports differ in the total acres of lakes assessed-- 79,986 in 2014 and 80,525 in 2012.

“This report is an important tool to gauge our progress on protecting Pennsylvania’s waters.” DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo said. “While we have more work to do, this report demonstrates that DEP is working hard to improve water quality.”

The report, required every two years by the federal Clean Water Act, is an assessment of the state’s rivers and streams. DEP assesses four protected uses of all surface waters: fish consumption, recreation, potable water and aquatic life. DEP examines water chemistry, macro-invertebrates, pathogens, iron, nitrates and sulfates.

The Integrated Waters Report is now open for a 45-day comment period. After the comment period, comments will be reviewed by DEP, changes will be made and a comment response document released. DEP’s final draft of the report will be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

Public comments on the report are encouraged. The public comment period will begin on April 26 and continue until June 10. Written comments should be submitted to Molly Pulket, Division of Water Quality Standards, Bureau of Point and Non-Point Source Management, P. O. Box 8774, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8774 or send by email to: Comments received by facsimile will not be accepted.

A copy of the report is available online.  Copies of previous reports are available on DEP’s Water Quality Standards webpage.


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