Procter & Gamble continued in its efforts to monitor the Mehoopany plant’s potential impacts on the Susquehanna River last week.
A team from Stroud Water Research Center was out on Wednesday and Thursday collecting macroinvertebrates from the river for testing.
This includes insects such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies, “all of which are good indicators of water quality,” according to Dave Funk from the research center.
“If they go away, there’s a problem,” Funk said.
Each year, the team compares the insect communities and species to see if there’s any indication of a problem in the river that P&G could have caused.
“That might be manifest by the loss of species down below, or a change in the relative abundance of them,” he explained.
The team studies four river sites each year: two above the plant and two below the plant.
The site closest to the plant below Mehoopany Creek would show the maximum impact, if any, whereas the site near the boat launch in Tunkhannock’s Riverside Park is considered the lower recovery site.
The annual survey was originally planned for Thursday and Friday, but had to be rescheduled because water levels in the river were predicted to rise.
“You have to jump when nature says you can do it,” Funk said.
Although the team missed last summer’s survey because the river was too high, it hasn’t missed very many throughout the past few decades since P&G began testing.
“Some years, we can’t get in,” Funk said. “Last year, the water never came down to where we can do it.”
Although the team has not thoroughly studied this year’s findings yet, Funk said he and others have not found anything they think could be a concern.
“Generally, what we find is that the plant is not making any measurable change in the river,” he said.
Once they bring their samples back to the research center, it takes months to process them and get results.
In regard to the 2017 report, Jan Battle from Stroud said no differences were documented from 2016.
“Across the board, things didn’t change at all if you were to look at the big picture,” she said.
While the survey exists for P&G, it also gives Stroud a look at the Susquehanna River over time.
“Every year we submit a report to P&G, tell them what we found, whether we saw any indication of a problem, and then we also study the long term changes in the river that have nothing to do with P&G,” he said.
Over the past 45 years or so, Funk has noticed improvements in the Susquehanna River. This can partially be attributed to efforts such as the Clean Water Act.
“The water quality in the river generally in this region has improved steadily for a really long time until about 10 years ago when it seems to have levelled off,” he said. “We can’t say it’s dropping yet, but it’s
not increasing or improving anymore.”