Mutant fish does not a pollution problem make.
So says DEP Secretary Michael Krancer in his dismissal of a request by 22 retired agency water quality experts to reconsider his decision not to list 90 miles of the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers as "impaired" waterways.
The employees, many of them aquatic biologists, said listing the rivers that course through central Pennsylvania, would be a "first step" toward bringing them back to health.
We further believe that these rivers meet the following criteria for high priority impaired and threatened designation: Risk to human health and aquatic life; Degree of public interest and support; Recreational, economic and aesthetic importance; and Vulnerability and fragility as an aquatic habitat.
Krancer, in his response to the retired DEP employees' May letter, said that there was only anecdotal, not scientific evidence showing any pollution effects and that putting the rivers on the official list of polluted waterways would be a “publicity stunt."
And it wasn't just the former DEP employees asking Krancer to reconsider his decision not to put the rivers on the federal impaired streams list.
The state Fish and Boat Commission also wrote him expressing their concern that Krancer had rejected its request to put the rivers on the list after finding mysterious outbreaks of disease in small-mouthed bass.
Many of the bass in the river also now have both male and female characteristics.
Krancer, who is locked in an open war with the federal EPA, said it would be a long and costly endeavor to study all 5,500 miles of the Susquehanna and its tributaries and draft what is known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to legally limit that pollution.
Krancer writes, "All potential sources within all tributaries, as well as upstream sources in the main stem must be identified, sampled and modeled in one massive TMDL. It would take many years to complete any TMDL.”
But longtime environmental advocates say adding the rivers to the listing would place needed pressure on DEP to work harder to clean up waterways.
"Getting the river on the polluted waters list would hold DEP’s feet to the fire as the department would have a legal obligation under the Clean Water Act to bring the river back to health," writes Jan Jarrett, former president of PennFuture, on her blog.
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