From the Director: Thinking Outside the Box to Keep the Creek Clean

Conservation // August 10, 2016

On July 24 the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that five of sixteen municipalities in the Wissahickon Watershed have signed the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA). (As of today, two more have signed on.) This will allow these municipalities to work together to find ways to improve water quality, reduce flooding and erosion, and protect aquatic life. I encourage you to show your support for the IGA and urge your elected officials to sign the agreement by signing this petition initiated by our upstream partners at the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA).

FOW has been a very involved participant in this process, even though we’re not one of the regulatory agencies that are permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We represent many of the constituents who are actually drinking the product that is coming out of the Wissahickon waterway. As a member of the Wissahickon Clean Water Partnership, FOW is regularly sitting in and supporting WVWA, the Philadelphia Water Department, and our regional partner, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, as they seek to bring together all the constituents who are permittees of the state and federal government.

In the interest of standardizing water quality, the EPA has traditionally adhered to total maximum daily load (TMDL) particulate counts and phosphorous and nitrate counts. This is true everywhere, as all municipalities seek to reach the same targets for clean water nationally.

What is different in every context is the contributing factors that are compromising water quality. Each community has a unique topography, a unique history of engagement with the watershed, and frankly, a unique history of abuse of the watershed. So single remedies are not going to always work across the board.

The Intergovernmental Agreement within the Wissahickon Watershed is the first time we are truly incorporating the entire community in addressing the needs of the waterway in order to restore it. We will look at how we can: leverage all of the municipalities who own property in the watershed; involve all of their citizens as actors in our watershed health; and develop more realistic goals, and more affordable means of achieving those goals, to reach the same objective of clean water.

The EPA is not going to loosen its stance on what clean water means. They have a rigid standard to promote human health, and I don’t think any of us want to see that rolled back. But what we can do is think out of the box on who we are going to hold accountable to keep our water clean, and how we are going to assure their compliance. Together, we can discover better ways to tract outcomes for our watershed.

Sign the petition today!

by Maura McCarthy, FOW Executive Director