PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on May 9 approved Pennsylvania’s 2012 final list of impaired waters.
The list is part of a biannual monitoring and assessment report characterizing the condition of Pennsylvania’s surface waters.
The 2012 list submitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection contains 7,009 impaired waters, of which 263 are newly listed, including portions of Buffalo Creek and Plum Creek in the Upper Juniata watershed.
The list also includes more than 650 miles of streams within the Susquehanna River Basin that were added or updated in the 2012 list.
The new list removes 39 water bodies that were on the previous list, including more than 96 miles in the Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna basin and 27 miles of the Lehigh River.
A complete list is available at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/water_quality_standards/10556/integrated_water_quality_report_-_2012/1127203.
The Clean Water Act requires states to analyze available water quality information to assess the health of waters and every two years identify those water bodies that do not meet water quality standards.
The impaired waters list is then submitted to EPA for review and approval. States or EPA must subsequently develop cleanup plans to restore the impaired waterways.
The final report includes a change in the designation for a nearly 100-mile section of the main stem of the Susquehanna River from “unimpaired” for aquatic life and recreational uses, to having insufficient water quality data to make an impairment determination.
That change from the draft to the final report reflects comments submitted to DEP from EPA and others, as well as efforts to identify the cause of health impacts to the Susquehanna’s smallmouth bass population.
DEP initiated a special study of the fish health problem in 2012 and is continuing its data collection efforts in 2013 to further assess water quality in the Susquehanna River and its major tributaries, and identify the cause of the decline in smallmouth bass.
Information and data from this effort can be found at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/water_quality_standards/10556/Susquehanna_River_Study_Updates/1449797.
While these steps are under way, the Chesapeake Bay pollution budget, also known as the total maximum daily load, or TMDL, and accompanying Pennsylvania Watershed Implementation Plans require action to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution within the Susquehanna watershed.
Pennsylvania will update its statewide assessment when it submits its list of impaired waterways for 2014.
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.