Thursday, June 7, 2012

You’re just confused about Susquehanna pollution

That’s what Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) secretary Krancer essentially told 22 retired DEP water quality experts who wrote to him asking for 90 miles of the Susquehanna River to be officially designated as polluted. In a patronizing letter denying the request, Krancer attacked the credentials of the signatories to the request and said that putting the river on the official list of polluted waterways would be a “publicity stunt.”   

Something in the water is killing off young bass and causing disease in adult bass. The problem has gotten to the point where the Fish and Boat Commission has put new restrictions on bass fishing. Anglers can catch bass, but they must release them. Many of the bass in the river also now have both male and female characteristics. 

Putting the Susquehanna on the official list of polluted waters would trigger an all-out effort to discover what exactly is causing the fish to die and then to write a plan called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to legally limit that pollution. In fact, Krancer says in his letter, “Consider that just the watershed from Sunbury to Holtwood encompasses 5,500 square miles, five major tributaries, and a multitude of smaller tributaries. All potential sources within all tributaries, as well as upstream sources in the main stem must be identified, sampled and modeled in one massive TMDL. It would take many years to complete any TMDL.” 

Exactly. That’s why the river should be put on the list of polluted waters now so the work can get underway to clean up the pollution. According to Krancer’s letter, more studies are underway and that information will help shed light on the river’s problems. Getting the river on the polluted waters list would hold DEP’s feet to the fire as the department would have a legal obligation under the Clean Water Act to bring the river back to health. 

What won’t work is shutting out expert voices when they don’t agree with you.

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