As a result, Buffalo Creek is in the highest "impaired for at least one recreational use" category #5 -- in other words, "recreational use is not being supported."
In Limestone Run/Bull Run, tested in 2009, the high bacterial numbers gave the Run the same "impaired for recreational use" label at category #5. For example, the upstream results of the geometric means were 363.12 cfu/100 ml for the period of mid-July to early-August and 2,236.89 cfu/100 ml for mid-August to mid-September. At this high level of impairment, DEP is required to reduce bacteria to an average reading below 200 cfu/100ml, the "recreational use" standard.
The Union County Conservation District has been developing plans to reduce these high bacterial counts in Buffalo Creek and Limestone Run by working with area polluters in these two watersheds.
Upper Penns Creek in Union County demonstrated much better water quality with lower bacterial numbers. From mid-June to mid-July, the geometric means at the downstream site and upstream site on Upper Penns Creek were 47.61 cfu/100 ml and 21.94 cfu/100 ml, respectively, and so is classified in category #2, "streams with attaining one or more protected uses which includes aquatic life, fish consumption, potable water and recreation."
The greatest difference between Upper Penns Creek, Buffalo Creek and Limestone Run watersheds is the number of farms, the size of population in the watersheds, and the Mifflinburg sewage treatment plant that has undergone significant upgrading recently. Experts advise that with such high levels of fecal coliforms in Buffalo Creek and Limestone Run, drinking the water and swimming are not recommended.
In sum, BCWA hopes every effort will be made to improve the water quality in the watersheds within Union County by their citizens and the UCCD, including further and more accurate testing in all watersheds.
By Ben Hoskins
Chairman, Buffalo Creek Watershed Alliance