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DEP chief: No impairment proposal for Susquehanna - abc27 WHTM

DEP chief: No impairment proposal for Susquehanna

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will not seek to have the Susquehanna listed as an impaired river, but the head of the agency is promising to continue looking into issues facing smallmouth bass.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and others had requested that DEP propose to impair a 98-mile stretch of the river due to die-off of recently-hatched bass, lesions on adult bass, and male fish with female characteristics.

DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said, however, that his agency does not believe the main stem of the Susquehanna should be proposed as impaired under the Clean Water Act, and will explain why in the state's bi-annual assessment of its waterways to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Our final report is firmly grounded in sound science, and we expect that EPA will agree with it based on the science presented," Krancer said in a statement Tuesday.

Krancer said the views of the Fish and Boat Commission and others is based on "very limited, piecemeal data" and is not supported by the existing data or the law.

"DEP takes the concerns expressed about the Susquehanna very seriously and we are doing something about it," he said. "We will be taking, separately, a comprehensive and strategic approach to ensure that the Susquehanna River is protected."

Krancer said the actual cause of the issues has not yet been determined or linked to any particular water quality issue. He said DEP is dedicated to finding the answer through a "disciplined scientific approach."

"Our scientists report that there does not appear to be any demonstrated cause and effect between water quality and the young-of-year die-offs, which is contrary to what the Fish and Boat Commission has suggested is happening in tributaries outside of the Susquehanna, including the Delaware and Ohio river basins," Krancer said. "Within the Susquehanna River, this condition has appeared in a few tributaries and the impact is limited to smallmouth bass."

"Our scientists also tell me that no cause and effect can be established right now between water quality and the tumors and lesions found on adult bass. It is not at this point clear how prevalent the tumors and inter-sex conditions are throughout the river, nor if they are related to the young-of-year die-offs," he said. "It is important to note that the Fish and Boat Commission has not reported any diseased young-of-year in the lower Susquehanna this past summer.

Krancer said DEP will continue to look at water quality issues facing the river, such as pesticide runoff and hormone-disrupting compounds and nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen.

"Should the data indicate that a proposed impairment listing is called for in the Susquehanna or any waterway, we would do so," he said.

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