The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Pennsylvania’s 2012 final list of impaired waters. The list is part of a bi-annual monitoring and assessment report characterizing the condition of Pennsylvania’s surface waters.
The 2012 list submitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) contains 7,009 impaired waters, of which 263 are newly listed including portions of Buffalo Creek and Plum Creek in the Upper Juniata watershed. The list also includes more than 650 stream miles within the Susquehanna River Basin that were added or updated in the 2012 list. The new list removes 39 water bodies that were on the previous list including over 96 miles in the Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna basin and 27 miles of the Lehigh River.
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.
PADEP initiated a special study of the fish health problem in 2012 and is continuing its data collection efforts in 2013 to further assess water quality in the Susquehanna River and its major tributaries, and identify the cause(s) for the decline in smallmouth bass. While these steps are underway, the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and accompanying Pennsylvania Watershed Implementation Plans require action to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution within the Susquehanna watershed.