Last year Darby Creek Valley Association (DCVA) petitioned the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to change the Water Quality (WQ) designation of an un-named tributary of Whetstone Run in the Darby Creek Watershed to High Quality. This tributary represents the last remaining higher quality stream reaches in our Watershed, but the DEP intends to reject our petition for changing the WQ designation for this creek in Marple Township of Delaware County for reasons that are flawed and will likely pave the way for a large scale development project.
The development project is proposed on 213 acres owned by the Archdioceses of Philadelphia for the past several decades in Marple Township – known as the Don Guanella property. The developer wants to build a commercial complex that is 8 acres larger than the Springfield Mall, and if he doesn’t get a tax break, will build a large suburban sprawl housing development that will kill the entire forest area. This is not only devastating to one of the largest remaining forest areas in the Darby Creek Watershed in Delaware County, but past development of open space is a known cause of additional flooding and degradation of waterways downstream in the Watershed impacting flood-prone communities like Clifton Heights, Darby, and Eastwick Philadelphia.
Our initial petition was accepted by the State Environmental Quality Board in 2016 which directed PA DEP to conduct a study to evaluate the quality of the stream. The report of the DEP findings was recently released, and it is a bit disconcerting that in the finding document they mention a report prepared by others (a developer’s consultant) but have not provided a copy to DCVA as petitioners, nor is it referenced or an attachment to their findings report. In addition, there was no inclusion of the data that DCVA provided in our petition (3 years of macroinvertebrate data), but DEP would mention a dissenter’s report but not provide equal press for the data that a non-profit provided with the petition.
Not only does DEP report differently on “expert” reports, but DEP also has a flawed process. It compared the tributary to places like Sixpenny Creek which is in Berks County, not too far from Reading, in a limited development area over 50 miles away. There is an exceptional value stream less than 1,000 feet away that should have been used for comparison. DEP also sampled once last November which was early in the Benthos year, still cooling down from such a warm fall, and at a time when the bugs are really tiny, some may not have laid eggs yet or may have been just hatched.
This is the highest functioning stream DCVA has identified in the entire Darby Creek Watershed and losing it due an incorrect Water Quality designation will be a significant loss for the watershed.
It is important for residents throughout Delaware County to understand how this will affect the community and that you can help to reverse this decision. Comments on the draft stream evaluation report are open until Monday, August 13 here –https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment/.
Most importantly, people need to reach out to their state representatives to ask the PA Environmental Quality Board to direct DEP to go back and do a proper evaluation of the stream designation petition.
Time is of the essence, so please make your calls by August 13th!
Jaclyn Rhoads, Ph.D.
Darby Creek Valley Association
P.O.Box732 Drexel Hill, PA 19026 484-222-2502 | DCVA.ORG