Saturday, August 30, 2014

Opinion: Our Susquehanna River Is Sick

Opinion: Our Susquehanna River Is Sick
By Douglas E Fessler, Sunbury, PA

My story starts at just one point along the life-giving Susquehanna River. Sunbury primarily gets its drinking water from Little Shamokin Creek (Plum Creek), secondarily it pulls from the Susquehanna River.

Using too much cow manure on fields, use of pesticides and herbicides, and contamination from mine acid runoff are just some of the problems in our local area relating to keeping our water clean and safe.

So the problems that are in our waterways cannot fall on the shoulders of the water treatment plants alone, they can only do so much as explained below.

The Loyalsock Creek is a 64-mile tributary that empties into West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Recent talking about fracking in the Loyalsock State Forest is leading to another example how hasty decisions 64 miles inland can affect future generations (who will be left to deal with unforeseen problems). People will tell you what that it’s safe now, but again, unforeseen consequences come into play. For example, the effects of mine runoff have made the Shamokin Creek one of the most polluted waterways in Pennsylvania. This creek transports around 5,000 pounds of lead to the Susquehanna River annually.

The Shamokin Creek contributes 53 percent of the total lead that reaches the Susquehanna River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises against any swimming in or consumption of the water of the Shamokin Creek, this means water treatment plants can't clean the water.
This example shows exactly how the unregulated management of our waterways can lead to undrinkable - to literally unusable -water.

Do we sit around and wait for the Susquehanna River to reach this breaking point? Do we look at the problem individually asking what can I do about it? Do we point fingers to find out exactly whose problem it is? The truth is it’s a problem for all of us and it’s going to take communities up and down the Susquehanna River coming together to address the issues as Pennsylvanians.
The Susquehanna River and its tributaries are barometric windows to the health of the environment.  The health of the environment is directly related to us and our future generations; it’s the food we eat and the air we breathe. Despite what we are told, our river is sick and it’s up to us to fix it. We are no longer the children... we are the adults we once looked to make sure everything was OK.

Douglas Fessler is active in the annual Susquehanna River Cleanup Project and in other local watershed groups in and around Sunbury.  He can be contacted by sending email to:

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