PA DEP and US EPA Failure on Susquehanna Impairment? What now?

“The Environmental Protection Agency has made it’s ruling: The lower Susquehanna River is not impaired (as the state’s Department of Environmental Protection recommended, despite protests from the Fish and Boat Commission). However, the stretch of river from Sunbury to the Maryland border is also not, not impaired.”

Huh? Smells like the ol’ super-safe bureaucratic two-step. Good work if you can get it; I can’t imagine any private sector employer accepting this dodge from their employees. I don’t seem to be alone:

Statement by Michael Helfrich, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper: “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.”

John Arway, Executive Director of the Fish and Boat Commission, issued this statement on EPA’s decision not to list the lower Susquehanna River as impaired (in part): “The EPA’s endorsement of the DEP report is extremely disappointing since it delays action on beginning to develop a cleanup plan for the Susquehanna River for at least another two years. We continue to believe that ample scientific evidence exists to demonstrate that the river is sick and needs help sooner than later.”

Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued this statement following the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s 2012 Impaired Waters List (in part):

“While CBF is disappointed in today’s decision by the EPA, one fact that remains is that the smallmouth bass in the Lower Susquehanna River are in trouble. So significant are the disease and die off rates that fisheries scientist fear a complete collapse of this once world renowned fishery. We believe this fact is enough for EPA and PADEP to have listed the lower Susquehanna as impaired.”


Here’s a chance to hear from DEP’s new Secretary. Maybe he’ll discuss his views on listing the Lower Susquehanna River as Impaired. I plan to make comment, particularly since public comment period is immediately prior to his address, so I would think he will be in the room. Also, just before public comment, the invitation for public comment into the Auditor General’s audit of DEP. Many of us worked very hard to get Eugene DePasquale elected Aud Gen. This DEP audit is the sole reason I was involved. Please consider joining me, if you can.

Wed, May 22, 2013 10:00 – 2:00 PM
PA DEP Citizens Advisory Council
Room 105, Rachel Carson State Office Building, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA

10:15 – 10:45 am Public Participation – Dave Hess, Chair – Report on general invitation for public comment & CAC input to Auditor General review of DEP programs

10:45 – 11:00 am Public comment

11:00 – 11:30 am Department Overview – Christopher Abruzzo, Acting Secretary

I hope to see you there.

If you are on FaceBook, please consider joining my Event, for on Wed, May 22, 2013 10:00 – 2:00 PM. I will make public comment to the PA DEP Citizens Advisory Council. The more the merrier.


On Wed, May 22, I made the following public comment before the PA DEP Citizens Advisory Council:

“I appear today to ask the PaDEP Citizens’ Advisory Council to do what it can to influence DEP to list the lower Susquehanna River (98 miles, from Sunbury to Holtwood) as Impaired. Failing to list our Susquehanna as Impaired was a very unwise choice by both PA DEP and the USEPA. A water is Impaired if it can’t meet its Designated or Existing Uses. Our Susquehanna’s Use includes Warm Water Fisheries (or, WWF). Smallmouths are its warm water fishes. Our Susquehanna is impaired, whether our bureaucrats label it such or not. PA citizens’ voices have already made a difference. Quoting the EPA’s ruling: “That change (from “unimpaired” to having insufficient water quality data) from the draft to the final report reflects comments submitted to PADEP from EPA and others, as well as ongoing efforts to identify the cause of health impacts to the Susquehanna’s smallmouth bass population.”

They seemed extremely lukewarm, at very best. We’ll see what they do.

On page 2 of the May 22, 2013 minutes of the DEP Citizens Advisory Council Meeting,  those comments are summarized, along with the limited interaction offered by the Members:

May 22 -13 CAC – FINAL Minutes

UPDATE, Gov Corbett’s Response:

“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently agreed that the river is, overall, healthy” ~ Tom Corbett (below), versus:

“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 PADEP from EPA and others, as well as ongoing efforts to identify the cause of health impacts to the Susquehanna’s smallmouth bass population.” ~ US EPA per link:!opendocument

My interpretation: EPA has not agreed that the Susquehanna is healthy, by a long shot.
To: Steve Todd
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2013 17:40:38 -0400
Subject: Thank you for contacting my office

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the health of smallmouth bass in the lower Susquehanna River.

Please know that I share your concern for this important issue. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently agreed that the river is, overall, healthy, it is important that we work together to identify what is impacting the smallmouth bass population. The Department of Environmental Protection is currently working with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the Fish and Boat Commission and the U.S. Geological Survey on a comprehensive water quality evaluation to help identify and fix this issue.

Providing a significant infusion of revenue to strengthen and expand our transportation infrastructure is a top priority of mine, and I am currently working with the General Assembly to pass enabling legislation. I agree that a key aspect of any successful transportation project is quality engineering, including accounting for stormwater, and will work to accomplish this goal with your concerns in mind.

I was pleased that we were able to include significant and sustainable funding for conservation districts in Act 13, which authorized an impact fee on unconventional natural gas wells in the Commonwealth. As a result of this legislation, all conservation districts are receiving funding, and total spending for conservation districts is significantly greater than before Act 13. I agree that increasing demands upon county conservation districts need to be met with the necessary financial resources, and believe Act 13 was a major step in ensuring that this happens.

Likewise, the impact fee revenue from natural gas wells is providing the first infusion of new money into the Growing Greener program in eight years. The funds for Growing Greener are complemented by nearly $21 million so far which is distributed directly to counties for conservation and recreation projects; $30 million for environmental projects through the Commonwealth Financing Authority; and an additional $35 million to date in new money for water and sewer projects. Each of these new initiatives is being funded through the natural gas well impact fee.

Again, thank you for your letter and the opportunity to discuss these important topics with you.




About steventodd

Both parties are broken by big money...what to do? I'm a dad, husband, son, taxpayer, voter, civil engineer, reporter, blogger, rabble-rouser and honest guy.
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2 Responses to PA DEP and US EPA Failure on Susquehanna Impairment? What now?

  1. veraduerga says:

    thanks, for attending and others and making statements of concerns…..


    • steventodd says:

      Sure thing, Vera. No thanks needed though. The Susquehanna belongs to my son, wife and Mom at least as much as it belongs to Shell Oil, The PA Farm Bureau. Some of us feel more so. Hope to see ya there.


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