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Fecal Coliform Levels Still High in Little Bushkill Creek

Environmental action group begins looking for detergents in the water, too.

At the Bushkill Stream Conservancy meeting Tuesday, member Terry Kleintop reported that fecal coliform bacteria levels continue to be high in the in Plainfield Township. A group of volunteers tested 23 sites for five weeks earlier this summer.

Kleintop, chairman of the Plainfield Township Environmental Advisory Board, said that only one of the sites had a coliform level low enough to meet the state Department of Environmental Protection's requirements. Conservancy secretary Jim Moser said this site is a tributary flowing from a quarry into the Little Bushkill.

"We really didn't expect this site to be high," Moser said.

The state DEP requires that the water is tested for fecal coliform levels between May 1 and Sept. 30. These months are considered the recreation period for fishing, boating and swimming, he said. The tests are performed once a week for five weeks. The first testing is done early in the summer and a second round later. Kleintop told the conservancy that the second round of testing is under way.

Kleintop explained that the coliform levels change from one week to the next. The DEP requires that for each site, the average of those five weeks, also called the GeoMean, is less than 200 parts per 100 millileters of water.

In the study period from earlier this summer, 13 of the 23 sites had levels ranging between 300 and 1,038, Kleintop said. Of those 13 sites, seven were above 600.

"That is five times higher than the DEP allows," he said of the 1,038 figure.

The results from seven sites ranged between 200 and 300, and a couple of sites were found to have levels between 150 and 200, Kleintop said.

"So we definitely have a problem," he said.

Kleintop explained that on a week-to-week basis, the levels at some sites have been as high as 5,000.

This section of the Little Bushkill Creek is listed as "impaired" by the DEP. Coliform levels rise due to siltation, stormwater runoff, and human or animal waste contamination, Kleintop said.

Moser said that testing done by the conservancy showed high nitrate levels in the Little Bushkill in Plainfield. The group has tested 21 sites and has discovered that the nitrate levels actually increased since the previous testing, he said.

"Nitrates increase because of fertilizer, or human or animal waste," Moser said.

Kleintop said that his group from Plainfield has started the second round of five-week tests. It has added four more sites to the testing list, bringing the total to 27.

The group is now also looking for detergents in the water. If this contaminant is found, then there is "human influence" causing the water contamination, he said.

Kleintop told the conservancy earlier this year that the entire east branch of the creek and the main stem, which flows into the Bushkill Creek in Tatamy, could be declared "impaired" by 2012. The DEP issues an "impaired" rating after it has tested the water and has found that it does not meet state water quality standards. These standards were created as a result of the federal Clean Water Act.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website, the Clean Water Act was established "to resotre and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters. The law requires that states establish priority rankings for waters on the lists and develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for these waters. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant a body of water can receive and still safely meet water quality standards."

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