The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Pennsylvania’s 2014 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, the Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday.
Required every two years by the federal Clean Water Act, the report describes the water quality of the state’s many streams, rivers, lakes and waterways. The report takes more than 8,700 staff hours to complete and includes a list of waterways that are impaired.
As of this report, 83,438 miles of streams and rivers are assessed for aquatic life use with 67,556 miles listed as attaining that water use, which means there are 15,882 miles of streams with impaired water quality in Pennsylvania.
Of the impaired miles, 9,031 require development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to reduce pollutant inputs and 6,851 have an approved TMDL. An additional 72 miles are under compliance agreements and expected to improve within a reasonable amount of time.
The two largest problems are agriculture and abandoned mine drainage. The largest stressors are siltation and metals.
However, other problems should not be minimized because in local areas they may impact a relatively large percentage of waters. For example, urban runoff/storm sewers is a minor problem in rural areas but major in metropolitan regions.
Since the last report in 2012, a total of 333 miles of previously impaired flowing waters and 853 lake acres were restored. In addition, the fish consumption advisories were removed from 11,592 lake acres.
This year there are two major listing changes. The Monongahela River, which was impaired for potable water use, was 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 rate is no more than one meal per month.
In its letter approving the report, EPA commended DEP’s ongoing study of the Susquehanna River and tributaries. It also recognized DEP’s recent efforts to bring together a panel of experts from Fish and Boat Commission, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, EPA and members of the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies.
This diverse group has been working together to gather and evaluate data related to the Susquehanna River and its tributaries for the Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System (CADDIS). The CADDIS panel is tasked with determining the attainment status of the Lower Susquehanna and Juniata rivers for the 2016 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment.
DEP will continue and expand its intense studies of the river and tributaries through 2015.
A copy of the complete 2014 Integrated Water Quality Report is available online.For more information, visit DEP’s 2014 Integrated Water Quality Report webpage and for copies of all TMDLs, visit DEP’s TMDL webpage.