NVEC Member Terry Melton attended the SCWAP Water Quality Technical Working Group Meeting on September 6, 2018, at 7 p.m. at the Ferguson Township Municipal Building.
Terry filed the following report. Acronym key below.
- Janie French, Headwaters Charitable Trust
- Dennis Hameister, Chair, Spring Creek Watershed Commission
- Betsie Blumburg, Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps
- Caitlin Teti, SCWC
- Cory Miller, University Area Joint (Sewer) Authority
- Jim Gazza, Coca-Cola
- Deb Nardone, ClearWater Conservancy
- Dave Christine, Biologist, PA Fish and Boat Commission
- Ford Stryker, Spring Creek Chapter – Trout Unlimited
- Brian Walker, Bellefonte Water Authority
- Dave Swisher, PSU Office of Physical Plant
- Jessica Sprajcar, River Keepers
- Terry Melton, Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition
Janie began by explaining that the current “Centre Region Pollution Reduction Plan” (CRPRP) meets current MS4 requirements.
From the point of discharge, a 5-mile circumference is included in regulations. This plan was approved in 2017, therefore the data is quite current. The nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), total suspended solids (TSS) permitted under this plan meet the requirements of Chesapeake Bay EPA regulators. The EPA convened an expert panel to determine a global Best Management Practices (BMP) scheme that would work for any region, not just the Centre Region. Individual municipalities may have their own requirements that exceed these, but she feels the CRPRP is a well-done plan overall.
Two documents are part of the plan for this region. The plan was designed by an outside contractor. In particular, Table 1 (excerpted from the Chesapeake Bay report) lists impaired waters in the Spring Creek Watershed and the issues observed in each municipality.
In this CRPRP plan, various sites are expected to incorporate Best Management Practices (Map 2). Proposed BMPs are being imposed in designated regions of the highest priority (on the map, these are A#s); there are secondary sites with proposed BMPs (B#s), and other sites are having BMPs investigated at this time (C#s).
There is a 3-year time frame for these BMPs to be imposed.
Map 1 includes areas that are already regulated with BMPs and that are in the system, and have earned credits. There are currently areas that are not covered at all, and examination of these areas may be needed. These Maps are useful to suggest frameworks and strategies for Phase 2 of the SCWC update.
The primary question for the Sept. 6 technical group session was: Which source of data will work best for SCWC’s SCWAP update Phase 2?
For example, should we be using Water Resource Monitoring Program (WRMP) data, Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps data, water quality data from water providers, or wastewater quality reports?
Whereas “baseflow” is a good metric for quantity overall, what are the best metrics for quality measurement?
Some areas are already prioritized as high risk. Longitudinal data are the most useful, but is quality assurance and quality control of data a high priority?
What are the data metrics that are most important to the biology of the watershed? Consensus was that measurement of temperature, chlorides and chlorine might be top parameters. Nutrient levels are highly relevant, such as N, P, and TSS (levels of which are already being measured and must meet MS4 requirements). Cory Miller of UAJA wanted to measure the biology directly, such as numbers of fish/macroinvertebrates; Fish and Boat Commission measures primarily trout yearly.
The question was raised as to whether we are using data to make a plan or to decide how to make better data collection.
Cory Miller (UAJA) stated that we should be setting goals, such as “increase the number of trout” or “get stream off the impaired list;” start this by measuring the biology directly.
Dave Swisher (PSU Office of Physical Plant) pointed out that DEP won’t do a reassessment of the stream health parameters without a reason but the current need to update the SCWAP might be a sufficient reason. The assessment is formal, with many sites and abundant data collection and relies on their own scientists (will not accept data of other groups and collectors). They won’t take Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps data, for example.
Janie stated that the first combined group two weeks ago asked for a full DEP reassessment; she sent DEP the meeting minutes. Her take was that DEP is being standoffish at the moment. She is working with Tim Schaeffer (DEP Deputy Secretary for Water Programs) to try to get them more involved. Senior Corps data will still be useful to us.
Brian Walker (Bellefonte Water Authority) pointed out that the old DEP data is very outdated and that many improvements have been made since the previous report. Cory Miller (UAJA) noted that we have the option to use DEP monitoring locations to collect our own data. PA Fish and Boat Commission and others could cooperate to collect data and do studies and could use their protocols and perhaps student interns.
Ford Stryker (Trout Unlimited) asked if there are Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) imposed by DEP. If, for example, DEP did a reassessment and imposed new TMDLs this could negatively impact development potential.
Janie asked if wastewater treatment facilities are being challenged to decrease nitrogen output.
Cory Miller replied that nitrogen is a big focus now and that wastewater is much better than agricultural runoff in terms of nitrogen.
A bigger problem is on-lot septic systems (currently 3,100 in the Centre Region) and although Sewer Enforcement has been greatly stepped up in the last few years, the new plan should have something in it to address on-lot septic malfunction and monitoring. Cory noted that the calculation is that 25 lb per year of nitrogen is generated per system, and can be greater depending on the number of people in a household. He also noted that the amount of chlorine going into the watershed can be roughly calculated by measuring how many tons of salt are purchased for home softener systems.
In conclusion, the top metrics agreed upon for measuring water quality were: macroinvertebrates, temperature, chlorine, chloride, nutrients, sediment, dissolved oxygen (DO), and flow. There was agreement that quantity and quality are intertwined and that Senior Environmental Corps and WRMP data sets should be used.
The meeting concluded with a plan for both water quality and water quantity groups to meet again on September 20, 7 pm, Ferguson Township building.
I felt this was overall a productive meeting but data needs to be collated from a number of sources (agencies) and put into a meaningful format to guide the group in designing a plan. At this time there is no plan to actually gather longitudinal and current data and assemble it into a central spreadsheet. I have a concern that nothing concrete is happening yet; though it is good to hear that a consensus on what metrics are most desirable, I wonder if it might benefit SCWC to retain a contractor to assemble and collate data from different locations to maintain a uniform data set that will provide a baseline for future decision-making.
- BMP = Best Management Practices
- CCPaSEC = Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corps
- CRPRP = Centre Region Pollution Reduction Plan/ MS4 Plan
- DEP = Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
- EPA = US Environmental Protection Agency
- N = Nitrogen
- NVEC = Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition
- P = Phosphorus
- PaFBC = Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
- SCTU – Spring Creek Chapter Trout Unlimited
- SCWAP = Spring Creek Watershed Action Plan
- SCWC = Spring Creek Watershed Commission
- TMDL = Total Maximum Daily Load
- TSS = Total Suspended Solids
- UAJA = University Area Joint (Sewer) Authority