Schuylkill Action Network – A Watershed Source Water Protection Program

Schuylkill County Conservation District and Berks County Conservation District Contribute to Schuylkill River Water Quality Improvements

The Problem

The Schuylkill River watershed covers 11 counties and 232 municipalities in southeastern Pennsylvania, and serves as a drinking water source for nearly 2 million people. There are 52 water supply intakes along the 130-mile mainstem river and its tributaries.

The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) was established in 2003 to address the principal water quality impairments identified through the source water assessment conducted by the Philadelphia Water Department:

  • stormwater impacts in the lower, urbanized portions of the basin, including Philadelphia and its suburbs;
  • agricultural impacts in the central portion of the basin; and
  • acid mine drainage (AMD) impacts in the upper reaches of the river.

Approximately, one-third of the 2,700 miles of streams are listed as impaired.

The Approach

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 3 provides leadership to the SAN and its Steering Committee, which also includes the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), Philadelphia Water Department (PWD), the Delaware River Basin Commission, and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE).

Activities are organized through the Planning Workgroup and technical workgroups (Stormwater, Pathogen/Compliance, Agriculture, Abandoned Mine Drainage, Watershed Land Protection) that address the key and complex issues in the basin; all are supported by an Education and Outreach Workgroup. Administrative support and coordination is provided by PDE, with assistance from EPA, PADEP and PWD.

Workgroups are staffed by the groups named above but also by numerous partner organizations ranging from conservation districts to water utilities to non-profit organizations. The SAN family of collaborators—those who monitor water quality, install rain gardens and remove invasive plants, take on priority land protection strategies, repair fish ladders, fund and install BMPs, manage passive acid mine drainage treatment systems–numbers more than 150 organizations and 350 individuals.

Workgroups develop annual plans that include ongoing and prospective projects and targeted objectives and outputs; they meet quarterly throughout the year to track actions and progress, and report results informally during an annual workshop and in an annual Progress Report.

The Outcome

The Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) and the Agricultural Workgroups (AG) are focused on two of the major sources of impairments in the watershed. Thanks to the efforts of the Schuylkill County Conservation District and the Schuylkill Headwaters Association, the AMD Workgroup has made significant progress in remediating or eliminating abandon mine drainage, restoring floodplains, and educating and involving the public in the effort to improve the quality of the river as a resource.

Over the past 10 years, $14 million has been invested in the watershed to implement nearly 45 projects. Dozens of partners have worked together to develop news treatment technologies, leverage resources, and implement projects to clean up the river.

Under the leadership of the Berks County Conservation District, the AG Workgroup developed a prioritization process to select agricultural projects on a sub-watershed scale. They also decided to implement a “whole farm” approach, addressing all of the major pollution problems at each site. The AG workgroup has completed more than 175 farm improvement projects such as streambank fencing, riparian buffer plantings, animal crossings, and worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on the selection of projects for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding.

For More Information

Chuck Kanetsky, Source Water Protection Program Manager
U.S. EPA Region 3   215-814-2735

Information on individual projects can be found at the SAN website: www.schuylkillwaters.org

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