Men With Eggs
By Steve Todd
The Sun, August 28, 2014
In its Aug. 3 issue, the Washington Post stated that “at one polluted site in the Susquehanna (watershed) near Hershey, Pa., 100 percent of male smallmouth bass (SMB) that were sampled had eggs.”
As much out of some bad futuristic flick as that sounds, that news comes from a new U.S. Geological Survey based on fish collected from the Swatara Creek in 2007. Nothing has been done about it in the intervening seven years.
The boss here at The Sun is pretty flexible about what we report. There is one unbreakable commandment though: Thou shalt not write about anything outside of Sun Country. Well, the funny thing about pollution is that it eventually becomes ‘local news’ everywhere.
Where ‘Near Hershey’?
Two USGS sampling points along the Swatara Creek lie in Sun Country: at the SR0039 Bridge and Fiddler’s Elbow Road crossings. Neither looked particularly good for hermaphroditic fish.
By the time many farmed acres, and the Lebanon, Annville and Palmyra wastewater plants (WWTPs) discharge into the Swattie, as we locals know our stream, something is bad enough to make 70 percent of male SMB grow eggs in their testes. Just downstream of the Hershey and Hummelstown WWTP discharges, the rate goes to 100 percent. But why?
The jury is still out, but most in the field will tell you three words: endocrine disrupting chemicals: so common in discussion that their acronym, EDC, alone needs no further explanation. Tulane University tells us that EDC “are used in pesticides, plastics, cosmetics, electrical transformers and other products. Other substances are generated as a byproduct during manufacturing. Some … are synthetic drugs.” Farms and wastewater plants, then, contribute EDC into our waterways; wastewater and runoff treatment is not normally set up to remove EDC.
What You Can Do
Our most sure path to addressing (versus continuing to ignore) EDC is to declare our waterways, which have abnormal incidences of hermaphroditic organisms, “Impaired”. These waters are by law supposed to support fish, and they are clearly not doing so in a way anyone but Mad Max might accept.
PaDEP has not done so yet, but until this is done, no real federal resources will be available to improve the pollution. The water assessments to declare the Susquehanna River and its tributaries Impaired are done every other year. The 2012 Impaired Waters List for PA did not include the Susquehanna River. Concerned citizens should ask DEP where we stand on getting this done for us in 2014.
Steve Todd is an environmental engineer and the Secretary of the Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna (SOLS). SOLS has long advocated for declaring the Susquehanna River impaired.
Oct 15 UPDATE: Streamside Buffers Removed in PA
FYI, Final vote 27-22 in favor of #HB1565, which removes requirement to maintain stream side buffers from our most sensitive and pristine waters.
Eight Dems joined most Rs and voted in favor (Boo!):
Eight Rs joined most Dems and voted opposed (yeah!):
Only one Senator (Dem) did not vote:
When combined with the 119 – 79 blowout in the House (40 votes far exceeds the 20 vote R advantage), clearly both support and opposition was bipartisan.