(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) applauds the Luzerne County Council for adopting a Clean Water Counts resolution, calling on state officials to make clean water a top priority for the Keystone State.
"Healthy families, strong communities, and a thriving Pennsylvania economy depend on clean water," said Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director. "We applaud and thank Luzerne County Council members for publicly voicing their support for clean water in the Keystone State."
CBF embarked on the Clean Water Counts campaign in response to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) most recent statewide surface waters assessment. The results show that of the 86,000 miles of waterways flowing through the Commonwealth, nearly 20,000 miles are polluted. They also reported that the top pollution sources are agricultural activities, abandoned mine drainage (AMD), and runoff from urban and suburban communities.
Abandoned mine drainage pollutes more than 5,500 miles of Pennsylvania's waterways, and its bright orange, or often neon-blue hue is visually haunting. But AMD does more than just pollute, it literally renders a stream lifeless. There are no fish, crayfish, not even grasses in these toxic streams.
In Luzerne County, streams like the Nescopeck and Sugarloaf, even the mighty Lackawanna River, which is a major tributary of the Susquehanna River, are polluted by AMD. In total, 165 of the 1,238 miles of waterways flowing through the County are devastated by AMD. Other sources of pollution include urban and suburban runoff, which accounts for 32 miles of impairment, and sources categorized as unknown and other, which together account for 60 miles of pollution.
For nearly two decades, the Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR) has been working in Luzerne County, and in other communities throughout the north eastern and north central coal regions of Pennsylvania to educate residents, and to assist with the reclamation of the lands, streams, and other natural resources polluted by AMD.
Robert Hughes, Director of the program, is committed to turning things around in the region and in Luzerne County.
"We're grateful for this public support of clean water by the Luzerne Council members," said Hughes. "Out of the top 20 prioritized abandoned mine discharges within the Anthracite Region of the Susquehanna River Basin, 12 of them have concentrated, devastating impacts in Luzerne County. It's EPCAMR's mission to educate, seek funding for reclamation, and to help improve our local communities. Luzerne County's new Clean Water Counts resolution will support us in those daily efforts."
Through public education and engagement, CBF is hoping to increase awareness of water pollution issues, like those in Luzerne County, and elsewhere in the Keystone State. The goal is to urge state officials to make clean water a priority and commit the needed funding and programs to ensure that the waters that we rely on for drinking and household uses, recreation, and to grow our food, all meet clean water standards.
In addition to calling on local officials to pass resolutions, CBF is also asking something of citizens.
"We're asking all Pennsylvania residents to show their support for clean water by signing the Clean Water Counts online petition," said Campbell. "It takes only a few minutes, but your signature will go a long way toward demonstrating the importance of clean water to our elected officials."
Online petition signatures will be accepted through October 18th, the anniversary of the Clean Water Act. To learn more about the campaign go to cbf.org/PAForCleanWater.