The state could declare the Little Bushkill Creek "impaired" because it does not meet state-set water quality standards.
That was the news received by the Bushkill Stream Conservancy at a meeting Tuesday.
In addition, the group was told that the cost to clean up the creek would fall on Plainfield Township and would cost $10,000 to $20,000.
Delivering the news was Terry Kleintop, a member of the Plainfield Township Environmental Advisory Board. He said the state Department of Environmental Protection informed him that the creek could be declared "impaired" by 2012. If the "impaired" rating is given, it would include the entire east branch of the creek and the main stem, to where it flows into the Bushkill Creek, he said.
To date, a small portion of the creek near Wind Gap has already been declared "impaired" due to siltation and urban runoff, Kleintop said.
Kleintop said coliform levels are high in areas of the Little Bushkill, but not along the entire stretch. He said he told the DEP that the problem exists in sections of less than a half mile. The problem is that no one knows if the coliform counts are high due to animals or septic systems.
An impaired rating means that the state DEP has tested the water and has determined that it does not meet water quality standards set by states -- procedures found in the federal Clean Water Act.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Clean Water Act in order “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters,” according to EPA's website. “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 water body can receive and still safely meet water quality standards.”
If the "impaired" designation is put on the creek, Kleintop said, the DEP has until 2023 to do the TMDLs. He explained that the Little Bushkill would still maintain its high-quality cold water fishery status. The problem is with high "macros" levels.
Nick Henshue, a member of the Bushkill Stream Conservancy, explained after the meeting that "macros" is an abbreviation for macroinvertebrates. "Macros" are animals without backbones such as larvae or baby dragon flies.
On the issue of water testing, conservancy president Matt Glennon said there are two new volunteers willing to conduct tests at specific sites. The conservancy currently monitors 21 sites, he said
Glennon also told members that the conservancy needs to purchase two or three conductivity meters, which measure and monitor nutrients, salts or impurities in the water. Each meter costs $500. He suggested that the organization pursue grants to help fund these expenses and others.
The conservancy received a letter from Crayola, saying the company will be donating $1,000 through the Painting the Bushkill program, according to Glennon.
“We are pleased to be a part of the Bushkill Stream Conservancy’s mission of enhancing the quality and life in our Lehigh Valley community," wrote Linda Hamilton, community affairs manager for Crayola.
On another topic, Henshue, a science teacher at Easton Area High School, asked that anyone who catches a snake head fish should save it and freeze it.
Snake head fish are native to China and imported to the United States for aquariums. If they are released into native waters, they pose a problem to native fish life, so the state Game and Fish Commission should be notified, and the fish should not be put back into the water, Henshue said.