Yesterday, May 9th 2013 the Region 3 Office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (PADEP) acted within its discretion in listing the Lower Susquehanna River as a ‘Category 3′ waterway with ‘unknown cause(s) of impairment,’ and not a ‘Category 5′ waterway needing a pollution diet (AKA a “TMDL”) on its Final 2012 Integrated Waters Report (2012 IR). Read EPA’s Approval Rationale by clicking here.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) requires states who control their own water quality programs to submit Integrated Reports bi-annually to EPA. These reports, also known as 303(d) or ‘impaired waters’ lists, contain a state’s assessment of waterways’ health, noting which waters fail to meet designated or existing uses as described by state water quality standards.
Whether the Lower Susquehanna River is ‘impaired’ for purposes of PADEP’s 2012 IR has become a hotly contested issue with Pennsylvania’s expert fishery agency – the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) – and environmental groups, like Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, arguing that this section of river needs official recognition as ‘impaired’ because of the dramatic decline and diseases affecting Smallmouth Bass and other panfish populations. Read the official comments of the PFBC here, and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper’s comments here.
Michael Helfrich, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, had this to say about EPA’s approval of PADEP’s 2012 IR which failed to include an impairment designation for the Lower Susquehanna River:
“It is unfortunate that it appears neither PADEP nor EPA understand their own laws. Everyone agrees that there is an impairment of the River, and everyone who fishes the River will tell you there is an impairment what with the dead and diseased fish and blankets of algae that cover the River. Yet the agencies who are supposed to protect us and our environment refuse to act. The law is clear: evidence of a cause of impairment does not have to be known in order for a waterway to be declared impaired. That – an official recognition of impairment – is what we expected. EPA’s decision is not the end.”