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DEP recommends that EPA declare some water bodies impaired
Although Pennsylvania has made great progress in cleaning up its rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and other water bodies, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary John Hanger said that a new report submitted to the federal government today shows there are still challenges threatening the state’s water quality.
The report, "2010 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report," is submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the Clean Water Act, which requires each state to assess water quality within its borders.
"We've made a lot of progress in the past eight years improving water quality throughout Pennsylvania," said Hanger. "We've worked with municipalities to upgrade their wastewater treatment systems; we've worked with developers to minimize runoff; we've restored stream banks, reduced erosion and planted riparian buffers; and we've worked with the agriculture industry to ensure their operations protect the quality of streams running through their farms."
The secretary noted that Pennsylvania has classified approximately 3,300 miles of streams as exceptional value and another nearly 23,000 miles as high quality, ensuring the most stringent protections. He added that earlier this year, the state enacted a mandatory 150-ft buffer from all development along these most pristine waterways.
According to the report, 68,320 miles of the state's 84,867 miles of streams and rivers that are assessed for aquatic life use are attaining that water use. Of the impaired miles, 9,413 require development of a total maximum daily load (TMDL), to reduce pollutant inputs and 6,105 have an approved TMDL. An additional 65 miles are under compliance agreements and are expected to improve within a reasonable amount of time.
In terms of potable water supplies, 2,762 of the 2,883 stream miles assessed for potable water supplies attained that use, while 107 miles required a TMDL and 14 miles had an approved loading plan in place. Lake potable water supply use was assessed for 44,933 acres with 44,921 attaining that designation and 12 impaired acres requiring a TMDL.
The report found that Pennsylvania's water bodies are facing threats from a variety of industries and are subject to many different types of pollutants. Sources of pollution include agriculture, storm water runoff, land development, sewage treatment plants and atmospheric conditions. Some of the pollutants of concern include nutrients, suspended solids, silt, metals and total dissolved solids.
Hanger said pollution levels and the threats to waterways all across the state justified DEP recommending that the EPA designate certain waters as "impaired." The report included those recommendations, which meets the EPA's "303 (d) list" requirements. The EPA will decide whether to grant the impaired designation.