The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission says the Susquehanna River might seem healthy according to data used by the Department of Environmental Protection.
But for the average fisherman, signs of poor water quality abound.
They include high levels of algae taking up more of the water’s oxygen; white lesions on young smallmouth bass; and intersex fish, with male and female sexual characteristics, due to contaminants in the water such as … hand sanitizer.
The river should be deemed “impaired” by DEP so the state can start the studies needed to get to the bottom of poor water quality, says John Arway, commission director.
“The river’s in trouble. I hope you understand, the river’s in trouble,” he said. “Sick fish mean we have a sick river. I think you’ve seen the pictures, you’ve seen the data we’ve developed. We’ve got sick fish in the river.”
The DEP’s take on the Susquehanna’s health is different, since it uses other criteria.
It doesn’t test fish, but macro invertebrates such as worms, snails, and insects.
Fishing and boating account for 18,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, and $120 million annually in state and local tax revenues, according to the commission.