Fish Kill Hotline

Information from Brian Burger about the different state agencies involved in water quality monitoring.

  • State Hotline to report drilling problems  – 1-855-FISH-KIL (1-855-347-4545) is a pollution hotline to the PA Fish & Boat Commission.
  • Also call the US-EPA to Report a Spill or Dumping to “EPA Eyes On Drilling” – Report all non-emergency/emergency dumping, illegal & suspicious hauling, disposal, etc: 1-877-919-4372 or email: eyesondrilling@epa.gov

When reporting, it helps to use accurate terms, titles and names. In Pennsylvania, Fish and Game are served separately by two different agencies. While facilities, offices and land/water holdings vary county-to-county, they each maintain a local presence with full-time conservation police officers (and some quasi-part time assistants). Regarding water pollution, it may be well worthwhile to get to know your local Waterways Conservation Officer. Their training and role equates to a State Trooper in green and for green.

PA has four resource agencies. They are:

  • PA Department of Environmental Protection (Air Quality; Water Quality; Conservation Commission (oversees Conservation Districts); Mining; Oil & Gas; etc.)
  • PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (principally the State Forest and State Parks systems)
  • PA Game Commission (oversees things “warm & fuzzy”) They monitor and manage wildlife populations and game lands (as opposed to state forests which are NOT the same thing).
  • PA Fish & Boat Commission (oversees things “cold or slimy” including reptiles and amphibians as well as boating/boating safety). The PFBC is quite active in water pollution enforcement.

As an interesting and essential sidebar: DEP & DCNR are tax-funded agencies operating primarily on funds appropriated by legislature and both are cabinet agencies of the governor (thus politically controlled).

The Fish & Boat Commission and Game Commission are administratively independent agencies – they operate by the oversight of commissioners on staggered gubernatorial appointment. There are political tentacles there, but they are NOT funded by tax dollars. Hunters, anglers and boaters fund these agencies with their own fees for the benefit of all citizens, yet that is woefully inadequate funding.

Each county has a “Conservation District.” These are county-level agencies that function as liaisons to (and are partly funded by) DEP. They also administer some DEP programs depending on the county.

In fact, depending on the county, these agencies vary widely in staff and involvement, basically due to the politics and funding associated with a county. If the county has no money or the politics are an environmental free-for-all (as in some extractive economies), they may not be very well funded or staffed. Also, based on their funding and support, their level of DEP involvement varies from nothing to actual enforcement capacity with legal actions.

Conservation Districts are GREAT assets to local communities, and if yours is not active, funded and staffed, pressure your county commissioners to beef them up. Conservation Districts have both ag and non-ag roles. They operate with a board of farmers and non-farmers. A principal role of Conservation Districts is erosion and sedimentation control. Hence, they aim at education and voluntary compliance very much with farmers, but also construction trades, timber managers, etc.

Conservation Districts traditionally have been excluded from erosion and sedimentation control and inspections of the oil & gas industry and mining (a task is done or not done by DEP’s own inspectors. As an interesting note, Conservation Districts were quickly and abruptly cut out of the Marcellus Gas industry. Despite the muddy mess seen tracking from well pads onto highways and sediment choked streams too commonly observed, Conservation Districts were unwelcome plying their expertise with Marcellus. DEP insisted they could do it all. This has just changed –  reports are that Conservation Districts have been put back onto the roster to monitor erosion and sedimentation control with Marcellus.

Incidentally, the PA Association of Conservation Districts just elected a new president – from “Marcellus Central” in Susquehanna County.

Praise be to citizen watchdogs!

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