Pennsylvania’s DEP Files 2010 Report on Water Quality

January 2011Newsletters In the Zone

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has submitted its “2010 Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report” to the Environmental Protection Agency to satisfy requirements of both sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. There are several goals of the 2010 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report. Foremost is to report on the condition of the waters in the Commonwealth. Other goals include describing the water pollution control and assessment/monitoring programs.

Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to list all impaired waters not supporting uses even after appropriate and required water pollution control technologies have been applied. The DEP has an ongoing program to assess the quality of waters in Pennsylvania and identify streams and other bodies of water that are not attaining designated and existing uses as “impaired.”

Each water body must be assessed for four different uses (aquatic life, water supply, fish consumption and recreation) as defined in the DEP’s rules and regulations at 25 Pennsylvania Code Chapter 93 (Water Quality Standards) in Section 93.3, Protected Water Uses. Generally, aquatic life pertains to maintaining flora and fauna indigenous to aquatic habitats; water supply relates to the protection of ambient water quality for possible use as a potable water supply; fish consumption protects the public from consuming tainted fish; and recreation relates to water contact and boating. Each use may have different water quality criteria for individual chemical constituents, and each use requires a different type of stream or lake assessment.

According to the report, 68,320 miles of the state’s 84,867 miles of streams and rivers—or 80 percent—assessed for aquatic life use are attaining that water use. Of the impaired miles, 9,413 require development of a total maximum daily load, or TMDL, to reduce pollutant inputs, and 6,105 have an approved TMDL. An additional 65 miles are under compliance agreements and are expected to improve within a reasonable amount of time. (See listing of various categories and relevant water bodies at the DEP web site.) A TMDL identifies allowable pollutant loads to a water body from both point and non-point sources that will prevent a violation of water quality standards.

The report found that Pennsylvania’s water bodies are facing threats from a variety of industries and are subject to many different types of pollutants. Sources of pollution include agriculture, stormwater runoff, land development, sewage treatment plants and atmospheric conditions. Some of the pollutants of concern include nutrients, suspended solids, silt, metals and total dissolved solids (TDS).

For more information, please contact Kimberly A. Freimuth at 215.918.3627 or [email protected]