The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is setting limits on pollution into Pine Creek—hoping to make fishing and recreation safe in the watershed.
Pine Creek flows through 14 municipalities in the North Hills of Allegheny County before joining the Allegheny River in Etna.
Jon Capacasa, Director of Water Protection Division in the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic region, said they are establishing a TMDL, or a Total Maximum Daily Load for Pine Creek,
A TMDL identifies the leading sources of pollution and assigns responsibility in reducing it to each major source.
“In this case we have a stream that is very impaired by bacteria pollution and the TMDL identifies the various sources of that bacteria pollution and what their responsibility is to reduce it whether it be sewage overflows, or urban runoff, or failing septic systems or other sources.”
Pine Creek currently has bacteria levels as high as 100 times the accepted limits.
The TMDL limits are set in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Since 2008 the DEP has listed Pine Creek as impaired for recreational use. Under the Clean Water Act, a TMDL is required for waters listed as impaired for certain pollutants.
Capacasa said clean-up of the watershed was hurried along by residents.
“I think one of the great lessons from this effort is that citizens got involved in their local watershed and really (were) responsible for taking a lot of the early data about the health of the stream,” said Capacasa. “What we call voluntary monitoring or citizen monitoring really served as a basis for action here.
He said it’s important for citizens to continue monitoring their local waterways so problems can be addressed if needed.