Column: Tour offers a moment to praise efforts toward reclamation and a challenge for more to step up
A week ago, members of the Eastern PA Coalition of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR) hosted US Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, at a few reclamation sites within our greater watershed to highlight investments in Abandoned Mine Land (AML) clean-up in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
"There is no commodity on this planet more precious than water. Water is Life. Small headwater streams and wetlands are the capillaries of a watershed. They are the life blood of a healthy ecosystem," said EPCAMR Board President Dr. Joseph Simons III, who also serves as vice president of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association (MSRKA), during opening remarks of the tour.
"As an avid fly fisherman, you quickly learn that macroinvertebrates and native brook trout are the benchmark of the purity of a stream. We have so many dead streams, devoid of life, poisoned from acidic mine water and laced with heavy metals."
He pointed out that three of the largest point sources of pollution of the Chesapeake Bay are located in Northeast Pennsylvania: the Old Forge Bore Hole, Audenreid Mine Tunnel and Jeddo Mine Tunnel, which are "all pumping millions of gallons of mine water every day into streams that flow into the Susquehanna River and on into the Chesapeake Bay."
From an environmental standpoint, Secretary Haaland's tour last week helps illustrate the incredible potential for waterway improvement and future protections that will hopefully be sparked by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act investments.
There is still much work to be done when it comes to how those funds are allocated, and personally I strongly hope that local groups -- which have their collective finger on the pulse of what is best for their corner of the watershed -- are included in the important decisions of what systems are pursued, which bids are accepted and how success is marked moving forward.
Those local groups, in many cases, include a network of smaller watershed associations that make the most of usually meager funds and volunteer hours to make a difference in a creek or other tributary to the Susquehannna. They remove countless bags of litter, conduct plantings to stabilize streambanks and challenge the status quo to raise awareness and help drive efforts toward better water quality.
So, in the afterglow of last week's big visit, we want to take a moment to applaud EPCAMR, the Earth Conservancy and the hard work of countless individuals and watershed groups that continue to lead from the front lines in the battle against AMD and other water quality threats.
I also want to use this opportunity as a challenge for those who feel compelled to get involved, but may not know the next step to take. It begins by connecting with the watershed association in your own backyard. Volunteer for projects, donate time and/or money. It will be an investment well-spent, not just for your own benefit, but for others in your community, those downstream and for future generations.
"As the leader of the free, civilized world, we cannot continue this legacy of pollution to our health and environment," Dr. Simons included in his remarks last week.
We each play a role in re-defining that legacy.
If you have any questions or comments about what to do next, contact me (Riverkeeper John Zaktansky) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-768-6300.
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John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.