As a resident living within a stone’s throw of the Perkiomen Creek (Schwenksville), I spend a fair amount of time poking around the stream engaged in any number of activities ranging from walking the dogs along the trail to photographing wildlife there. Recently, on a few forays along the banks to scratch the warm weather itch, I have noticed what appears to be a pristine quality to the water – probably my imagination. I can’t remember it being this clean and inviting. With curiosity piqued, I browsed around the internet for information to get a better understanding of the relative quality of the stream.
Eventually, I landed on the web site of the Stroud Water Resource Center and a report on the Schuylkill Watershed – “Understanding Stream Conditions“. As a professional in the water quality field and an avid user of the resources of the watershed, I am a bit embarrassed that I have not spent more time digesting the information available. I guess I am pretty quick to discount the publications of such organizations as left-wing blather about how all industries and commercial activities should be shut down as we return to “living off the land” and sustainability. I can not begin to count the number of times in my 35 year career as an environmental engineer working with industrial clients, that I encountered the closed-minded, one-sided, uninformed resistance from folks opposing one project or another. Oh well, not the subject of this post and not case with the work Stroud is doing – seems like good science; pragmatic and practical. The information that I restate below is from this report; items that I found interesting or relevant and without proper footnote or reference…
While the report is focused on the entire Schuylkill River Watershed, I was mainly interested in the Perkiomen – although compartmentalization is probably not wise… While Pennsylvania has a complex and rather subjective classification system, the summary referenced here relies heavily on a MAIS (Macroinvertebrate Aggregated Index for Streams) score to rate stream quality – basically the more diverse and numerous the critters, the higher the score. Pennsylvania streams are also rated on a number of different scales or designations depending on water temperature, biological diversity, and wether or not the stream is supporting the life it should (impaired vs unimpaired). Ok, enough – Stroud’s site does a good job in explaining all of this… to the Perkiomen…
In the study, the Perkiomen watershed is divided into a number of smaller drainage areas including the Upper and Lower Perkiomen. I had a tough time figuring out where I sit and what data was applicable, but we are below Green Lane. From the best I can figure, the section of the Creek that I frequent is considered “Fair” based on this MAIS data – a surprise to me. I do admit that during periods of run-off (rain and snow melt). As one a little more in tune with the chemistry of water than the critters, I was interested in the analysis of the water quality – comparing the upper and lower:
|Total dissolved phosphorus (mg/L)||0.035||0.018||0.413||0.009|
|Alkalinity (as mg/L CaCO3)||55||51||108||3|
The bottom line is that the water quality appears to degrade from source to discharge into the Delaware – no surprise here. I read somewhere that the entire contents of the Schuylkill River were recycled 9 times form Reading to Philadelphia. Probably a bit of an exaggeration, but the reality is that many users are drinking/using recycled water, like it or not.
In any case, based on my knowledge of the discharge of many sewage treatment plants in the area, the water quality of the sewage plant discharge approaches that of the receiving stream (Schuylkill River). This is probably not the case for the Perkiomen, but the trend is clear. Soon we will be connecting the drinking water inlets to the sewage plant outlets. Man, that ought to create a public relation nightmare for the utilities!
Anyway, enjoy the Perkiomen and its relatively clean water and kudos to the Stroud folks for some good work! I really hope to be a better steward of the Creek and expand my knowledge of the water quality issues there. Guess it is another case of the plumber with the leaky faucet…
Winter on Perkiomen