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Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP
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The article and embedded video states the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers have been declared "impaired" by the DEP. My understanding is this declaration can open up state and federal funds for study and remediation of the rivers. Let's see if it's true and what happens next.

Impaired Susky and J Rivers

Posted on: 4/21 7:25


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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Wow Tim Shaeffer is making things happen, I’m looking forward to seeing what else this man can accomplish in the future.

Posted on: 4/21 8:42
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Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP
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Interesting - I'm surprised to see this.

DEP had resisted this for a long time, in large part due to the fact that the cause of the bass crash was unknown (and the Susquehanna River is cleaner generally than it has been in the past). It should be noted that the article clearly states that the cause of the Susky's problems remains "unknown."

The Juniata (which the article can't even spell right) is described as having problems with PH and "impaired for aquatic life." Moreover, it does not say what sections of the Juniata are to be listed, but refers to Huntington County. The bass crash only affected the lower river. Presumably this will be the section declaired impaired(?), or will it include the upper watershed in Huntington etc?

I'd be curious to see a detailed report on the data and how it has changed (if it has) and why the change of heart at DEP.


Posted on: 4/21 8:49


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP
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Quote:

Dave_W wrote:
Interesting - I'm surprised to see this.

DEP had resisted this for a long time, in large part due to the fact that the cause of the bass crash was unknown (and the Susquehanna River is cleaner generally than it has been in the past). It should be noted that the article clearly states that the cause of the Susky's problems remains "unknown."

The Juniata (which the article can't even spell right) is described as having problems with PH and "impaired for aquatic life." Moreover, it does not say what sections of the Juniata are to be listed, but refers to Huntington County. The bass crash only affected the lower river. Presumably this will be the section declaired impaired(?), or will it include the upper watershed in Huntington etc?

I'd be curious to see a detailed report on the data and how it has changed (if it has) and why the change of heart at DEP.



More info I dug up about what and where >

Pollution issues on these waterways have been known about for years, if not decades, but the DEP’s latest report determined that stretches of the Juniata from Huntingdon County to its mouth in Duncannon and the Susquehanna from Duncannon south to to the Route 462 Bridge near Columbia in Lancaster County are also impaired due to high pH levels.

In layman’s terms, high pH in a waterway is a sign of high alkalinity, which can adversely impact the health of aquatic life in the river and has to be accounted for when the water is used as a source for drinking water. Steelton, for example, sources its drinking water from the Susquehanna.

So far, the DEP hasn’t determined the source of this latest impairment along the Juniata and Susquehanna.


Link to source: https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/04/ ... them-in-pennsylvania.html

Posted on: 4/21 9:07


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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https://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Water/ ... Water-Quality-Report.aspx

Above is a link to the report, public comment and a mapping application presenting DEP water quality report from 2018. The amount of data presented is stunning if you take some time to figure it out. This is a huge improvement over past efforts to report this data to the public.

Talking high pH in these systems: Certain algal and fungi blooms create elevated levels of pH often these spikes are short lived, but it seems like they must have data showing a more longterm trend. Most forum readers will know this, but often times algal blooms are the result of excessive nutrients. Both phosphorous and nitrogen can cause unique algal blooms to occur.

Posted on: 4/22 11:02


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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Quote:

Dave_W wrote:

DEP had resisted this for a long time, in large part due to the fact that the cause of the bass crash was unknown (and the Susquehanna River is cleaner generally than it has been in the past).


Do you think the Susquehanna is cleaner now than at the time of the bass crash (2005)?

If so, why do you think so? What changes have occurred that would cause that? And is there water quality data that shows this?



Posted on: 4/22 15:53


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP
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Quote:

troutbert wrote:

Do you think the Susquehanna is cleaner now than at the time of the bass crash (2005)?


No, I don't think this.

When I point out that the river is generally cleaner than in the past, I'm referencing today vs. the 1980s/90s for comparison. After all, it was during that era that many river anglers remember as the good ole days of SMB angling before the crash.

Since monitoring began on the Susky in the mid 80s traditional pollutants - think phosphorous, nitrogen, AMD etc. - have generally improved. Since the crash, the numbers are much more stable and some evidence shows upticks in some of this stuff, phosphorus in particular. Overall, I'd guess that pollution numbers have remained stable since the bass crash and now into the recovery of good fishing.

We should, of course, remember that many of the "new" pollutants that we're aware of today, mainly the endocrine disruptors, have impacts that are not well understood, but certainly serious. Are these getting better? I doubt it... and we don't have long term data to answer this anyway.

Regarding the study's findings that PH levels have impacted the stream life in the Juniata and Susky, I find that somewhat surprising. My understanding is that this is the main criteria for the new impaired status. These rivers are loaded with mayflies and just teeming with pollution intolerant macros (including stoneflies) that are traditionally seen as good water quality indicators. I have no doubt that the surveys' results were valid and peer reviewed - it just doesn't jibe with what I know (or thought I knew) about these rivers.

Posted on: 4/22 18:08


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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Regarding pH, the PennLive article says:

"Pollution issues on these waterways have been known about for years, if not decades, but the DEP’s latest report determined that stretches of the Juniata from Huntingdon County to its mouth in Duncannon and the Susquehanna from Duncannon south to to the Route 462 Bridge near Columbia in Lancaster County are also impaired due to high pH levels."

Note, it's talking about HIGH pH levels, which is something we have rarely heard discussed as a problem on streams and rivers.

For years, probably the main pollutant we have heard about in PA is acid mine drainage pollution which causes LOW pH levels.

So, this is the opposite.

During the smallmouth bass kill of 2005, I never heard anyone say they saw kills on the West Branch Susquehanna. The West Branch receives far more mine drainage than the north branch or the Juniata.



Posted on: 4/22 18:51


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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If the high pH can be linked to any causative agents my hypothesis would be high nutrients causing algal blooms. Certain algae is linked to causing drastic increases in pH. These conditions exist for a relatively short period of time. In the links I shared above the DEP shares data that led to the impaired listing. Without continuous instream monitoring with sondes the high pH levels most likely wouldn't have been observed with traditional grab sampling efforts. I believe the sondes were collecting data every 30 seconds. It takes a relatively small amount of those readings to be greater than 9 for that sampling point to be considered impaired.

Posted on: 4/22 21:15


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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Here's a summary of what they are saying (I think):

The problem is eutrophication, i.e. over-enrichment with nutrients, which leads to high biological oxygen demand, which leads to very low oxygen levels in periods in the summer when the water flow is very low and the air temperatures are high.

And that weakens the bass and creates ideal conditions for nasty bacteria and viruses to propagate.

And the finger for the over-enrichment of nutrients is being pointed mostly at farming practices.

That's it in a nutshell. I think.


Posted on: 4/23 22:36


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP
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Quote:

troutbert wrote:
And that weakens the bass and creates ideal conditions for nasty bacteria and viruses to propagate.

And the finger for the over-enrichment of nutrients is being pointed mostly at farming practices.

That's it in a nutshell. I think.


I agree.

It should be noted, however, that the upper section of the Juniata in Huntington County was not impacted by the bass crash, only the lower sections. Recent survey results reveal excellent SMB populations in the upper Juniata. The bass are not in trouble up there, and weren't during the crash last decade.

Rather, the negative impact of the high PH is on macroinvertebrate stream life and this is the reason for the impairment status (if I'm following). Poor macro structure is much more likely to be a criteria for an impairment declaration or a general conclusion that a creek is troubled.

While one would regard farming as the usual suspect in a PA watershed with excessive nutrients, note that the study concluded that the cause was "unknown."
(scratching my head).

Posted on: 4/24 8:21


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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In the upper sections of the Juniata River the water temperatures are probably substantially cooler than in the lower sections. So the water would hold more oxygen in the upper sections than the lower sections.

And as you go further downstream it not only gets warmer, but also continues to receive more nutrient inputs from farms, sewage plant effluent, food processing plants and lawn fertilizer.


Posted on: 4/24 15:55


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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How about the crash of the rock bass population in our central PA rivers and creeks... something definitely up with that! I’ve never heard an explanation?

Posted on: 4/26 19:05


Re: Susky and J Rivers declared Impaired by DEP

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Quote:

TJones wrote:
How about the crash of the rock bass population in our central PA rivers and creeks... something definitely up with that! I’ve never heard an explanation?


There is no denying this. "Rockies" are way, way down in my neck of the woods. It is funny how people care so much less when it comes to these "lesser" gamefish numbers crashing.

And yes, I think the Juniata in my neck of the woods is amazing and has never really went down hill. I also agree that the water stays cooler up here. We have more high quality cold water streams that dump in up here and less exposure time/surface area to the sun. I remember a bunch of people on here arguing that smallies love it when the Susky when the water hits the high 80's/low 90's which I absolutely don't believe.

But yes I would think high agriculture along the waterways would be the number one factor these days for the type of "pollution" that we are talking about here. Just as someone (sorry, can't remember poster) mentioned the influx of liquid manure into the Frankstown Branch. Lots and lots and lots of agriculture along our rivers.

We will see what positive changes happen with our rivers now officially"impaired."

Posted on: 4/28 4:14






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