By Anya TikkaDINGMAN TOWNSHIP — Anything that happens upstream affects a whole lot of wildlife downstream.
Chris Wood, Dingman Township’s Sewage/Zoning Enforcement Officer, reported on his attendance at the Pennsylvania Association of Sewage Enforcement Officer’s Conference at a recent township meeting.
Shellfish, including oyster beds, and rockfish have already disappeared in Chesapeake Bay, he said, offering a cautionary tale for Pike County's streams, which are designated by the state to be High Quality or Exceptional Value.
“Chesapeake Bay is a mess,” Wood said. “There are a lot things controlling industrial and chemical waste. Of course, once you kill one species, you mess up the whole ecology. They are trying to bring back the bay.”
He said it’s going to take many years to do, but Maryland has put together a series of laws of how to develop properties to achieve this. Nitrates are the most abundant runoff, mainly from farming. Although Pennsylvania is working with nitrates a little differently, it’s important to know about new developments, he added.
As far as Dingman Township and Pike County go, things are looking good.
“We test all of our streams on a regular basis," he said. "Nitrates are extremely low in Dingman Township."
He said he believes it’s the same in most other townships around the area, based on what he sees on his rounds.
“We’re talking to the point where drinking water allows 10 parts per million, and on a bad day we may be one half of a part per million," he said. "So we’re very clean.”
New technology gains tractionOne of the developments that could affect Dingman Township residents in the long run is the use of membrane bio-reactor technology that’s becoming more common around the country, with New Jersey recently approving its use.
“It uses reverse osmosis to clean sewage to a very high level before being discharged to wherever it is — a bed, a mound or whatever it might be," he explained. "It’s used in big cities’ sewer treatment, like Los Angeles, because of the way it work. It cleans the sewage to a very high level, making water almost drinkable — or close enough."
Pennsylvania may start using the new systems, depending when somebody picks it up, and starts to sell it to consumers. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection won’t say, "let’s test this and approve it, they wait for a company to sell it, or someone wants to use it on their property,” he said.
At that point, DEP will evaluate it and the person who wants to sell it or use it will have to have it tested.
Wood couldn’t say how much the new technology costs, or when — or if — it will ever come to Pennsylvania. But he said it's something that’s being used around the country and most probably will eventually come to the region.
In 2013, leaders locally and around Pennsylvania successfully fought back strict new state regulations for septic systems built for new subdivisions or commercial projects. The new rules aimed to control the spread of nitrates, which, unlike other contaminates, migrate away from septic fields, and would have required lots of 10 acres or more in certain areas. Supervisors told the DEP that the new rules would hamper growth, be difficult and costly to enforce, and were based on faulty science.
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