PENNSYLVANIA UPDATE

From the Desk of Harry Campbell Winter 2015


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Clean Water Restoration

CBF PA Executive Director Harry Campbell.CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell.

Polluted waters: Last month the federal Environmental Protection Agency has accepted the Department of Environmental Protection's assessment that almost one in every four miles of Pennsylvania's rivers and streams have been significantly damaged by pollution. Unfortunately, the Lower Susquehanna was not on the list.

Although large-scale scientific studies continue, with the virtual collapse of the river's smallmouth bass fishery, CBF and others believe that the Lower Susquehanna should be formally listed as impaired, and that more resources must be brought to the table to reduce the pollution thought to be contributing to the problems plaguing smallmouth bass.

Pennsylvania must pick up the pace: As documented by EPA, CBF, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition, efforts to reduce pollution from Pennsylvania to the Bay are not sufficient. The state is not alone in not being on track to meet the Blueprint goals. But the majority of the nitrogen shortfall is attributed to Pennsylvania, while the phosphorus shortfall is relatively evenly distributed among the Bay states.  

Across the region, and here in Pennsylvania, pollution has cost thousands of jobs, flooded homes, and continues to put human health at risk. 

In order to pick up the pace of restoration, CBF is calling on Pennsylvania to:

  • Accelerate the pace of bringing farmers into compliance with existing water quality laws and regulations. It is estimated that a substantial percentage of farms still need training on which long-standing laws apply. Many lack required pollution prevention and reduction plans and face long waits for technical and financial help.
  • Reduce pollution from urban/suburban runoff. Recent audits by the US EPA have found substantial shortfalls by communities required to address polluted runoff.
  • Accelerate the planting of forest buffers and other core pollution reducing practices. In Pennsylvania forested stream buffers were established at a rate of six acres per day from 2009 to 2013, but must increase to a rate of fifty acres per day through 2017 to meet the goal the Commonwealth set.

On the brighter side: CBF has been working across the state to encourage local governments to support our Clean Water Counts resolution. Eleven jurisdictions have now signed on, including Berks, Cumberland, Fayette, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Westmoreland, Wyoming, York, and now Washington, Erie, and Greene Counties.

Through public education and engagement, CBF is hoping to increase awareness of water pollution issues. The goal is to urge state officials to make clean water a priority and commit the needed funding and programs to ensure that the waters that we rely on for drinking and household uses, recreation, and to grow our food, all meet clean water standards. 

In addition to calling on local officials to pass resolutions, CBF is asking residents to show their support by signing the Clean Water Counts online petition. It takes only a few minutes, but signatures will go a long way toward demonstrating the importance of clean water to our elected officials. 

Thank you for caring about clean water and for helping CBF to make a difference in reducing pollution in Pennsylvania's waterways and downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.

—Harry Campbell
Pennsylvania Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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