Is The Susquehanna River
By Ken Penrod
Our guide service brings hundreds of non-residents to fish the
Susquehanna River and the
areas we concentrate in can ill afford the loss of tourist
I grew up in Portage, Pennsylvania, and virtually every
day I walked alongside of a creek, orange in color, from coal
mine run off that went unabated throughout the region. I
remember thinking that “something is really wrong” but no one
did much about it and those that could, didn’t because coal was
gold and virtually every man’s job depended upon it. Like the
present, we had a cabin in Cameron County, Pennsylvania, where
the trout streams ran clear and clean—but almost overnight, the
Sinnamahoning Creek, a tributary to the West Branch Susquehanna
turned orange and everything that lived in her died. Strip
mining for coal killed her—and no one did a damn thing about it.
Today, the main stem Susquehanna, between Sunbury and the
Holtwood Dam, some 95 miles, as well as 50 miles of the lower
Juniata River, is under similar attack and the government of the
State of Pennsylvania refuses to do anything about it—just as
they have always done traditionally. While the river is still
the best smallmouth bass river know to me, the decline in fish
population is quite obvious. Each year I spend six weeks in a
motel in Duncannon to escort my clients to world-class
fishing—but it’s not the same. Why would I leave the tidal
Potomac, some 20-minutes away from my home, to fish,
if she wasn’t great?
American Rivers, a watchdog conservation group has declared the
Susquehanna River as “The
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, John Arway, Executive
Director, is so fearful of the fish decline that he put a halt
to bass fishing between May 1 and June 15.
Anglers are catching bass with very nasty sores on their skin
and the river has lost several complete year-classes of
smallmouth bass because of low dissolved oxygen caused by
horrific algae and God knows what else.
Ugly sores on smallmouth bass are becoming more common.
Something is wrong and someone is covering it up.
You can smell the poultry waste throughout the river during the
spring—and see ugly surface deposits at dawn that mysteriously
disappear shortly after sunup.
The algal blooms of summertime are sickening.
Marcellus Shale drilling is destroying ground water—and perhaps
the river, and it’s so bad in some areas that even PA has closed
some operations. For one entire year the east side of the river
ran brown with dirty water—and it wasn’t from heavy rains.
The PA department of Environmental Protection refuses to declare
the river as “endangered” in spite of all this evidence. An
“endangered” label would cause investigation—and tremendous
lobby efforts are calling the shots.
The head of EPA is one Michael Krancer, former counsel to Exxon.
Did you know that Exxon owns the power facilities at Three Mile
Island; Muddy Run; Peach Bottom and 2/3rds of Safe Harbor—all
electric producing facilities on the Susquehanna River. Of
course you know that Exxon is heavily invested in Marcellus
Shale drilling. It’s no secret that the gas and oil giants are
also heavily invested in the politics of
Pennsylvania. The Governor isn’t going
to shoot the hen that lays the golden eggs.
The vast majority of
the Susquehanna valley is home to chicken, turkey, hog and
cattle farms where tremendous volumes of animal waste is
generated—and disposed of. To get around the very weak laws of
disposal, heavy doses of liquefied animal poop is spread on
fields, as “fertilizer” and where do you suppose that stuff goes
when it rains?
Then of course, most of the sewage treatment plants along the
river are malfunctioning—and many, many facilities release
directly into the river.
The PA EPA has initiated a “Check Your Water” campaign where you
are urged to choose a water for pollution existence. When you
click on the Susquehanna River,
it says “no data available.”
This isn’t just a Pennsylvania problem either; See—The Susquehanna River
supplies 60% of all freshwater to the
Chesapeake Bay. Can you understand why the Bay is
Some 6,000,000 people drink Susquehanna water. Can you trust
drinking water from a source so polluted?
The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, Michael Helfrich, is
begging for public help—and is not getting it. That’s
unacceptable. Reach him at
In five days the EPA will meet to discuss this issue. We need
letters folks, lots of letters. Please complain to:
Office of Standards, Assessment and TMDLS
Water Protection Agency
Environmental Protection Agency
1650 Arch Street (3WP30)
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Shawn M. Garvin
Administrator for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region (3)
US Environmental Protection Agency
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
2098 Long Level Rd.
Wrightsville, PA 17368
I intend to use this article as my letter, and I will mass-mail
to our substantial clientele as well as publish it in our
magazine, LOU Magazine that can be seen at