DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council was told Tuesday the agency plans to have a recommendation on whether the Lower Susquehanna River should be designated as impaired by the end of 2015.
Josh Lookenbill, DEP Bureau of Point and Non-Point Source Management, briefed Council on the Lower Susquehanna River Study DEP and the Fish and Boat Commission started in 2012 in an attempt to determine why smallmouth bass populations were declining and in some cases developing lesions.
Lookenbill said the study is one of the first “big river” studies done by the agency based on a comprehensive water sampling strategy that covers the large water body from bank to bank and at various depths.
He said DEP has gathered three years worth of samples and will sample again in May and August of this year. However, because of the techniques used by its partner the U.S. Geologic Survey to analyze the samples, the results from all of those samples will not be known for some time.
DEP hopes to have at least one year’s worth of complete sample results on which to based its recommendation at the end of 2015 to include in the 2016 Integrated Water Quality Report required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The last report was done in 2014.
In addition to looking for a comprehensive list of pollutants, Lookenbill said DEP is also sampling for pesticides, hormones, PCBs and other contaminants.
Asked if the preliminary results indicate any cause, Lookenbill said no cause has been yet ruled out.
Lookenbill noted DEP did a video of the sampling study to give the public a better idea of how the study was being done.
The Fish and Boat Commission, Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA and other groups have been advocating strongly for designing the Lower Susquehanna River as impaired for several years.
A copy of Lookenbill’s presentation will be posted on the Citizens Advisory Council webpage.
Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley briefed Council on several key issues, including DEP’s proposed FY 2015-16 budget, the status of the Chapter 78 drilling regulations and the latest steps the agency is taking to implement the Act 162 stream buffer legislation.
As a follow-up, Hayley Book, Assistant Director of DEP’s Policy Office, gave Council a more detailed briefing on the budget proposal.
DEP earlier provided Council with its regular monthly report.
Hearing On Act 54 Report
The Citizens Advisory Council also held the first of two public hearings on the 2008-2013 Underground Coal Mining Impact Report required by Act 54 to document the surface impacts of longwall and traditional room and pillar underground bituminous mining in Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Clearfield, Elk, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Somerset and Washington counties.
The Council heard comments from eight witnesses, including the PA Environmental Council, PA Coal Alliance, Sierra Club, PA League of Women Voters, the Citizens Coal Council and several private citizens living in mining areas.
There will be a second hearing March 27 in California, Washington County, to take more testimony. Click Here for more details on this hearing.
During Council’s public comment portion of the agenda, the Sierra Club and several individuals supporting the Sierra Club urged Council to delay its recommendation on a proposed final version of DEP’s Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) regulation covering major air pollution sources until DEP has the opportunity to review in more detail the Club’s comments on the regulation submitted during the official comment period.
DEP reported to Council they were reviewing the Sierra Club’s comments and plan to meet with them on the issue, but did not know if the comments will prompt them to make further changes to the regulation.
In light of DEP’s review and the fact Council may or may not have the final version of the regulation in front of it to review, Council did act to delay its recommendation.
Under new business, Council member Dr. Joi C. Spraggins briefed Council on a new project she was undertaken to identify strategies for encouraging more minority hiring by both state and federal environmental agencies. She said she would be reaching out to Council members to get their input on the project.
The next scheduled meeting of Council will be on April 21 in Room 105 of the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg starting at 10:00 a.m.For more information, and copies of available handouts and presentations, visit DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council webpage.