The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) has listed four miles of the Susquehanna River in the Harrisburg area (from the mouth of the Conodoguinet Creek to the mouth of the Yellow Breeches Creek) as impaired for recreation. This recreational impairment designation is the result of high densities of coliform bacteria detected in the river, which indicate the potential for other pathogens in the water. Such high densities of bacteria in the water might cause illness from contact with or ingestion of the water. A number of tributaries of the Susquehanna River were also listed as impaired for recreation and aquatic life. These include the Conodoguinet Creek, Swatara Creek, and Conestoga Creek. In addition, all 347 miles of the Susquehanna River are listed as impaired for fish consumption.
These listings are not related to health issues that have impacted smallmouth bass populations in the Susquehanna and its tributaries. DEP is continuing to study this problem. DEP also announced expanded efforts to assess water quality in the Susquehanna and to develop assessment methodologies to help identify the underlying causes of the impairments. These studies will guide DEP in formulating a regulatory strategy to improve the Susquehanna River water quality.
At this time, the regulatory impact on those who discharge to the Susquehanna River and is tributaries is unknown. It is fair to expect stricter regulatory requirements in the future, both for point and non-point dischargers. Stock and Leader’s Environmental Group will be closely monitoring developments on this issue.