Challenges in the Bushkill Creek Watershed

Although water quality in the upper Bushkill Creek watershed is generally quite good, the same cannot be said for the lower watershed downstream of Stockertown. Two tributaries are formally listed as Clean Water Act Impaired Streams (303d list) due to wastewater and quarry discharges, and our monitoring efforts have periodically documented high nitrates, sediments, and conductivity, and poor macroinvertebrate diversity near Easton. Bushkill Creek has the dubious distinction of having the worst water quality at its mouth of all lower Delaware tributaries surveyed by Delaware River Basin Commission in its recent report Lower Delaware Monitoring Program: 2000-2003 Results and Water Quality Management Recommendations. Clearly there is much work to be done.

A serious challenge to the stream is the rapid pace of development. The recent connection of Rt-33 and I-78 will further increase development pressure in the upper watershed. Development increases storm runoff to the stream and may reduce recharge to groundwater. It also increases siltation problems due to poor erosion control and damage to stream buffers. However, development can occur without these effects, and the Bushkill Stream Conservancy is supportive of growth that is compatible with maintaining watershed quality.

   
Silt fences and erosion along Bushkill Creek; Inadequate erosion control leads to sediment problems in the Bushkill

Industrial land uses also pose a challenge to water quality. These include a large regional landfill, abandoned slate quarries, operating cement quarries, and a variety of industrial sites along the stream in Easton. Quarry discharges containing fine sediment and sinkhole activity between Stockertown and Tatamy are major problems in our watershed.


Fairly typical stream color in Tatamy. Picture taken January 2004, when the stream should be clear.

The Brookwood Group (Brookwood is a small residential area near the closed Tatamy Road bridge) has been working to alert regulatory and elected officials to the seriousness of this problem, and it appears their efforts are finally paying off. Bushkill Stream Conservancy has gone on record as opposing any "fixes" to the problem (such as the proposed lining of the stream) until such time as a comprehensive hydrogeological study of the entire sinkhole area has been completed. Such a study should include installation of wells to measure groundwater levels, investigation of the hydrologic connection between the creek and the groundwater, and a determination of the effect of nearby quarry pumping on groundwater levels.


See the DEP Stockertown sinkholes website for more information.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website on the Bushkill Creek sinkholes.



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