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Susquehanna River "Most Endangered"

Susquehanna # 1 on annual list released today

American Rivers * Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Embargoed Until:
Wednesday, April 13, 2005, 12:01 a.m Eastern

Sara Nicholas, American Rivers, (717) 232-8355
Eric Eckl, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 ext. 3023
John Surrick, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, (443) 482-2045
Don Williams, (215) 380-6166

(Washington, D.C.) American Rivers and its partners today designated the Susquehanna River the nation’s Most Endangered River for 2005, citing the growing problem of sewage and dam construction along the river. The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers report, now in its twentieth year, highlights rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those with the worst chronic problems. American Rivers and its partners called on federal and state officials to reject the dam and invest the resources necessary to clean up the Susquehanna River and restore the Chesapeake Bay downstream.

“The volume of untreated and poorly treated sewage that ends up the river is a serious threat to the health of the river and everyone who wants to enjoy it and the problem is poised to get worse,” said Rebecca R. Wodder, president of American Rivers. “Improving sewage treatment along the Susquehanna will go a long way towards saving the Chesapeake Bay, it’s a two for one bargain.”

The Susquehanna River flows through early industrial cities like Binghamton, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York. Many of the sewer systems and treatment plants in the watershed are no longer up to the task of protecting the river, the people who use it, and the Chesapeake Bay. The problem will get worse as the area grows -- the population in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is projected to increase by 3 million by the year 2020.

“A thunderstorm is sometimes all it takes to start millions of gallons of raw sewage, wastewater, hygiene products, and pharmaceuticals gushing into the river,” said Don Williams, a Susquehanna River advocate.

Even when the sewer systems are not overwhelmed, treatment is generally insufficient to remove enough nutrients to protect the river and bay. The Susquehanna River contributes half of the freshwater flows to the Chesapeake Bay-along with 40 percent of the nitrogen and 20 percent of the phosphorus that flows into the Bay.

 “Pollution in the Susquehanna threatens not only the river itself but also the Chesapeake Bay.  This pollution is a major, significant contributor to fish kills, underwater grass destruction, and the decline in oyster and crab populations in what was once the most productive estuary in the world,” Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker said. 

“Improved sewage infrastructure and increased funding to reduce agricultural pollution are critical investment needs essential to improving water quality in the Bay and Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams,” Baker said.

In the city of Wilkes-Barre, local officials are proposing to compound pollution problems by building a giant inflatable rubber dam across the Susquehanna to create a deep-water pool for jet skis and party barges. The conservation groups warned that the inflatable dam would trap pollution in the recreational area, posing significant health risks to human health from exposure to disease-causing pathogens and other germs found in polluted stormwater and inadequately treated sewage.

The conservation organizations called on federal and state officials to deny the permit application for the dam. The groups called on Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass State Sen. Raphael Musto’s bill to send a bond referendum to Pennsylvania voters. If passed, the $1 billion bond would create a Combined Sewer Overflow Grant Program to help communities clean up the Susquehanna and other rivers in the state. 

In his proposed 2006 budget, President Bush asked the U.S. Congress to cut clean water assistance to Pennsylvania by more than $14 million and to slash other Chesapeake Bay cleanup measures, as well. Conservation groups urged Congress to reject the proposed budget cuts, and provide an additional $12 billion in assistance over the next six years that the governors of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia have requested to aid in the Susquehanna and Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

About America’s Most Endangered Rivers
Each year, American Rivers solicits nominations from thousands of river groups, environmental organizations, outdoor clubs, local governments, and taxpayer watchdogs for the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report.  The report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures rather than those suffering from the worst chronic problems.  The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.

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