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Protecting Your Schuylkill River - By Donald S. Welsh, Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator

Release Date: 6/24/2005
Contact Information: Liz Ferry, (215) 814-2909

Liz Ferry, (215) 814-2909

You don’t have to live on the banks of the Schuylkill River to have an impact on its water quality.

In fact, the area of land that drains into the Schuylkill River, known as its watershed, covers about 2,000 square miles and includes parts of 11 counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. The actions of people who live and work in that area are important in protecting the river. Little things - like properly disposing of used motor oil, maintaining septic tanks and not overusing pesticides on lawns - can make a big difference.

A major effort is underway to improve the Schuylkill River and its tributaries, which serve as a drinking water source for more than 1.5 million people and a popular recreational and industrial resource.

The effort is being led by the Schuylkill Action Network - a group of more than 60 government, business and non-profit partners convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tackle the challenges in restoring the river. Its founding members include EPA, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Philadelphia Water Department and the Delaware River Basin Commission.

In addition to raising awareness of the need to protect the Schuylkill, the network is busy with a variety of projects to deal with specific problems impacting the river. The problems were identified in a full assessment of the river - the first step in what may be a model approach to watershed protection.

The assessment found that despite progress, about one third of the waters were impaired - meaning that they do not meet water quality criteria established to protect streams. The biggest culprits were drainage from abandoned mines, agricultural practices, storm water runoff and sewage overflows.

Once the threats were determined, the Schuylkill Action Network went to work on a voluntary basis to create solutions and achieve results that can be measured. Integrated workgroups are executing strategies for each source of pollution. The effort is being aided by a highly-competitive $1.15 million EPA Targeted Watershed Grant authorized by the Bush Administration.

The Schuylkill Action Network approach is based on collaborative problem solving - the realization that no one partner can accomplish what is needed. Progress is being made every day. And you can help.

The involvement of all citizens is vital to the success of the restoration effort.
• Plant a tree. It’s good for the air and the water.
• Homeowners can hold off fertilizing their lawns until the fall.
• If you own a septic tank, you can make sure that it’s properly maintained.
• We can all drive less. Air pollution washes out of the sky and becomes water pollution.
• You can be sure to pick up after your pets.
• Before you buy fertilizer, purchase an inexpensive soil test to determine how much and what kind of fertilizer your lawn needs.
• Keep your trash off the streets and out of the storm drains. Trash isn’t just unsightly. It often carries harmful pollution with it.
• Join a local watershed association.

To get involved or learn more about the Schuylkill Action Network, visit