New data from a partnership between the USGS and the Chester County Water Resource Authority could help municipalities reach their goals on cleaner, healthier streams.That's according to the most recent edition of the Red Clay Valley Association's Local Issues series, held Friday, Dec. 5, at the Kennett Area Senior Center.

Jan Bowers of the Resource Authority said that the main reason for the partnership was because the Department of Environmental Protection's MS4 permits would eventually call for individual municipalities to be responsible for water quality in their streams through Total Maximum Daily Loads regulation.

Bowers, who was instrumental in setting up the arrangement with the USGS, said that the data DEP uses to set those requirements lacks understanding of real world situations that exist in many of the streams.

"Those of us who were working in the streams were collectively seeing that disconnect. The DEP sees that disconnect, but DEP doesn't have anything they can do about it," she said.

If the municipalities are going to be required to address sediment issues in their streams, Bowers said, then the data to help them meet their TMDL goals should exist.

"We needed to get a better understanding of how that sediment is moving, how much is moving and what kinds of things can be done to stop that sediment so that we can work with municipalities to put plans together that make sense," she said. "But truly we would clean up the streams and not waste money on things that don't work."

Bowers said the authority approached the USGS two years ago to help collect and assess the stream data to put the tools in place that would help municipalities both understand their requirements and to see quantifiable results.

In a presentation last week, Leif Olsen of the USGS discussed the kind of data collected and how it is analyzed.

By monitoring sediment levels at various locations on different streams throughout the county, the USGS is hoping to identify sources of excessive discharge and also find ways to mitigate those circumstances and reduce the amount of sediment.

"We need to know if there's a problem there in the first place, and we need to know if the things we're doing to mitigate those problems are actually working," Olsen said. "Without knowing the sediment loads, it's hard to evaluate if mitigation is actually working."

Bowers said that while the technical aspect of the research may seem boring, ultimately the data being presented is going to be useful in meeting the DEP's TMDL requirements.

"It's the kind of work that has to get done to lay the groundwork so we can learn enough and take it into the real world," Bowers said, "We've given [the USGS] very little in the way of resource and we've come up with some really astonishing science that will help give us that framework."

Kirk White, also of the USGS, said that characterizing the aspects of each watershed is an important step in addressing the sediment issue.

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