The volunteer board members of the non-profit Buffalo Creek Watershed Alliance (BCWA) of the Merrill W. Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy were surprised at the high levels of bacteria in Union County creeks when the Union County Conservation District (UCCD) shared testing data.
Working for 10 years for a healthier creek, the alliance never considered tests would show Buffalo Creek and Limestone Run had such serious bacterial pollution. The board felt compelled to share the following information with the public to stimulate improvement of water quality in the county.
During the summer of 2009 and 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and area volunteers conducted testing for fecal coliform bacteria in three Union County watersheds: Buffalo Creek, Limestone/Bull Run and Upper Penns Creek. This testing did not differentiate between human bacteria from sewage treatment plants and septic systems and animal bacteria from farming and wild and domesticated animals.
This bacterial testing was done on five different days over two summer months. Data from these tests were calculated in a geometric mean. For an accurate scientific explanation of this process see the 2012 Integrated Report with technical explanations available for public review on DEP's website: www.depweb.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/water_quality_standards/10556/integrated_water_quality_report_-_2012/1127203
The DEP, through the Pennsylvania County Conservation Districts, is required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make every effort to reduce bacteria, or "fecal coliforms" in Pennsylvania waterways to below 200 cfu/100 ml (amount of colony forming units per 100 milliliters of stream water).
Test results in 2010 showed the bacterial count on Buffalo Creek at two different sites upstream at Hoover Road Bridge and downstream at Forest Hill Road Bridge in early summer and late summer was well above the bacterial counts allowed by the EPA of 200. For example, from mid-June to mid-July, the geometric means at the downstream site and upstream site on Buffalo Creek were 891.36 cfu/100 ml and 817.83 cfu/100 ml, respectively.