Energy. Environment. Economy.

Krancer Rejects Request to List Susquehanna River as “Impaired”

Courtesy of William Yingling

Black spots on a fish caught in the Susquehanna River.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer has rejected a request from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to list the Susquehanna River as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act. Fish and Boat Commission executive director John Arway wrote a letter to Krancer April 4, describing increased incidents of “black-spotted” fish turning up in the river.

Arway says the appearance of black spots on adult fish is new, and only seen since last summer. A survey showed 40 percent of the adult small mouth bass within a section of the river had black spots. So far, no one has an answer for what’s causing the lesions. Possible causes could be hormonal changes from endocrine disrupters, viruses or other environmental causes.  Arway says intersexing, which can be caused by endocrine disruptors, is occurring among fish in the Susquehanna River and urges Krancer to conduct more studies.

“Unfortunately, the type and quality of data needed to characterize the contaminants leading to endocrine disruption in the Susquehanna River are lacking,” wrote Arway. “While the science behind monitoring these parameters is still developing, knowledge of this information as part of this investigation is of utmost importance.”

Arway also told Secretary Krancer that Shad stocks are not making it down river to the ocean.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

Scientists study aquatic life at a headwater stream that feeds into the Susquehanna River.

The listing, known as 303(d), would mean the river would come under certain federal criteria for discharges of pollutants, and studies would be prioritized to determine what is causing disease among the fish. States create new lists every two years. The public comment period for this list ends on May 22.

But Krancer says the data does not exist to list the Susquehanna River as “impaired” under the federal statute. In Krancer’s letter to Arway, he says Arway’s own Fish and Boat Commission has been telling anglers there’s nothing to fear from these black splotches, and that they’ve been documented on fish since 1980.

“Since we do not know what the stressor to the fish is at this point,” wrote Krancer, “there is nothing to appropriately or with factual support impair the river for.”

Krancer says that doesn’t mean research will not continue to figure out the cause of the black splotches. But he says so far, the cause “remains speculation.”


  • Mike Knapp

    My dad, the professional angler here in PA, just texted me this photo of a small mouthed bass he caught this afternoon in the upper Allegheny river near Parker, PA.

    He’s caught them for years, in many places where there is no gas well drilling activity. This has nothing to do with oil and gas drilling.  

    • Ernest G. Wilson II

      I agree, this is not from gas drilling. The pollution from gas drilling will be way worse. This is from other pollution. Anyone disagree? If so, meet me at the Conowingo dam, I’d be glad to watch you drink a tall glass of refreshing Susquehanna river water. Sorry, no pregnant women or children of course, I couldn’t watch that…

      • RBK3

        I completely agree – the Susquehanna was a world-class Smallmouth fishery until about 8-10 years ago. I’ve fished it since a young boy, nearly 30 years now, and it’s extremely sad for me to think about what has happened. The fracking is taking place in even more remote and pristine wildernes areas, so it will take out coldwater trout streams and their ecosystems before the Susquehanna gets totally decimated. Just last year the Susquehanna was named The Most Endangered River in the Nation. And to think the DEP Secretary isn’t scrambling to protect it is simply WRONG. It’s the Department of Environmental PROTECTION for God’s sake! Every press release I’ve ever read from the guy it’s like he works for the Marcellus Shale Coalition. I just don’t understand how this could ever happen.

  • tamara

    Krancer is a disappointment in the important role of protecting us and our environment and the endangered Sussquehanna by his position; heading the Dept. of Environmental Protection for Pa..  He would do better to support with great concern, an 
    investigation into the shad not making it to the ocean and to this blackspotting of bass. He would do better to look in to our health and water concerns resulting from horizonal high pressure hydrofracturing for natural gas with the chemical laced slur, whose contents has a tendency to show up in wells, be spilled in fields and diluted for a few years right into the rivers of Pa and made horrible impact on herds that drank from it.  Our governor is the only in all 34 states using the fracking technique, to allow this ‘back flow’ waste water disposal into our rivers as a waste solution.(Hard to get rid of 900 tanker trucks full of dead water per fracking).
    What will Krancer defend next?  He worked for (Exxon) and now is HEAD of the environmental protection side? I smell a dead fish and it has black spots. 
     We need governmental help, not hinderance..  We need a thorough environmental impact study done on the hydrofracturing for natural gas. WE need to stop all drilling now and look at these problems for our future generations.   Why are we not more concerned with this information from the well documented  findings of the Fish and Boat Commission and list our endangered Sussquehanna as impaired and get federal attention?   We must protect our waters.  Google it.

    • RBK3

      I guess the real problem is that the DEP Secretary is appointed by the Governor – so it’s clear why Corbutt chose an ex-Exxon employee to handle this position. The DEP offers an email subscription for news releases. Prior to Corbutt, most of the releases shed light on the violations, spills, citations, etc. that our beloved frackers were committing daily. Since Corbutt took office, it’s nearly impossible to find such details. Where is the accountability to the public, to the taxpayer, to the PA residents. Krancer did one of two things – he stopped making the fracking violations and citations from going public OR, even worse, they stopped policing the process. How the hell would we know? I mean let’s face it – with the number of wells the Texans are drilling in our State, it’s impossible to make sure they are following even the most lenient rules to protect whatever they can. I was hoping there would be more pressure from the Delmarva states due to the fact that the Chesapeake is only as healthy as the Susquehanaa, but i don’t see that happening???

      • Mike Knapp

         How the hell would you know?  Well, this very site has an interactive feature which allows you to search all over the state and see every violation that has been issued on a well by well basis.  It’s all public info, and it’s all very well covered by news outlets.  Another red herring.  Another uninformed “expert”. 

        • RBK3

          Mike, I’m not sure what you are asking me? How the hell would I know what? No I am not an expert but I studied geology for three years and graduated with a minor in the science. Regarding the violations being public info, I am well aware of the myriad websites that track and publish the violations. My point was that the DEP should be leading the charge – the DEP should alerting the public as to what is happening. The DEP should not be acting as an advocate for any industry, especially one where there really are no experts. The only true fact in all of this fracking mess is that neither side really knows what we’re dealing with in terms of what could happen, good or bad. The rate at which wells have been drilled, the rubber stamping of the permits, the leasing of state forests – this has all happened way too fast. There are still too many unknowns, on either side. I believe in a diversified energy portfolio that includes coal, petrol, gas, solar, wind, hydro, geo, etc. It’s a shame we don’t have leaders investing funds into a diversified energy plan. After all, this is going to impact our children more than us.  

    • Mike Knapp

      Um, you do realize that Pennsylvania banned the wastewater discharges you’re talking about right?  Over a year ago.  A practice which had gone on for decades was halted on thirty days notice.   It turned the industry upside down.  Who was it that did this?  The guy you’re trying to bash, Mr. Mike Krancer.   PA has cradle to grave tracking of all water used in the hydraulic fracturing process and any water discharged back into the environment is held to the safe drinking water standard. 

      • Patrick

        What ban? You mean the Krancer voluntary request? You do realize that this is not legally binding and so waste water dumping continues, right? You are obviously the “expert” here. What about Hart Resources? They’re not accepting and discharging waste? Why doesn’t the DEP data show 100% recycle or resuse? It’s not all going to Ohio. It is still being dumped here in PA.

        • Mike Knapp

          Sure, Krancer’s “voluntary” request.    There were only 17 grandfathered facilities (if memory serves me correctly).   Most of the water is being recycled.  That which is not is heading out to Ohio or being treated PROPERLY to safe drinking water standards.  I know Paul Hart.  I sit with him on the Indiana County Natural Gas Task Force.  We used to take most of our water to his facilities.  Now, it goes to Ohio, and to the best of my knowledge they’re not accepting any Marcellus drilling waste water.  They may be accepting some shallow well water, I honestly don’t know.  It will be a moot point in a very short time as water treatment facilities are popping up left and right to serve the industry.  Either way, it’s not causing this condition with the fish.  Its not causing the high bromide condition, or any other problem with PA’s waterways.     

      • tamara

        mike, i personally spoke with Lt. Cor. Larsen  about the effects of Storm Lee on the Susquehanna.  This huge flood on the Susquehanna during that time was not tested for content, nor was there record taken of how the wells fared or flooded in this huge deluge according to Lt. Cor. Larsen had he flown over assessing damage and documenting well damages. So sorry Mike, Do you think this increases confidence in the role of the DEP or the SWBC?
         Yes I do know sewage plant processing was stopped, did you know   these sewage plants were incapable of extracting possible radioactive materials naturally present in the deep earth? Did you know  PECO downstream complained the discharge from the plants was corroding their pipes?
          Why did the solution by dilution happen?  It was a horrible decision with known consequence. Poor Pittsburgh, 350,000 persons told to drink bottled water because water removal and discharge into their Monongahela.
        The outcry from the public, the threat of the EPA involvement, the fact that the New York Times exposed this filthy disposal with factual reporting in one of the most important pieces on this scandalous disposal of toxic materials. This reporting finally put the whole thing together for many people and it now fuels their desire for better control, regulation and impact studies. 

  • Julieann Wozniak

    PADEP has traditionally served the polluters it is supposed to regulate. The same polluters who write Pennsylvania’s lax environmental regulations. It used to be ACT 54, which took away any pretense of the limited protections landowners had from coal mining and allowed mining corporations free reign to violate the Clean Water Act. Act 13 does the same thing for the oil and gas industry. Mr. Krancer is merely a tool of our perpetually corrupt state house. 

    • Mike Knapp

      Except of course for the fact that PA has some of the strictest gas drilling regulations and oversight in the country, possibly the world.  You’re entitled to your opinions, you’re not entitled to your facts.

      • tamara

          One violation is one too many with the serious toxicity of the slur of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, (fracking)  of our “mother load” of Marcellus Shale Gas here in Pennsylvania. Consider those two little words, “mother load”.  Pennsylvania is also the “mother load” of recreation, the biggest chunk of change to our state economy is in recreation!!! Consider this business of injecting and hulling and spilling materials  known to cause cancer, this is a grave responsibility.  One violation is one too many!   Why do we accept these multiple insults, violations, made by out of state gas drilling operations, every day? 
         Our beautiful water-filled state of  Pennsylvania, admired for our clean air, land and water, the satisfying calm our natural resources loan us, body and soul over our short lifetime. We can’t drink money, can we?
         Governors come and go, but the huge decisions that have given away our state water, land and air, and consequence is  forever! 
         Fracked water is dead water, forever gone. Fracked water infiltrating our drinking water is unacceptable. The fisherman may not come to Pennsylvania to fish. Who is not fearful to invest in a mountain home or a refuge in a cabin on the Susquehanna river?  Aqua, responsible to CLEAN water, was granted a highly protested permit to taking 1 billion gallons of water.  Aqua’s new face is making our drinking water into toxic water and Landlord Aqua frack evicted 32 families from this now industrial zoned shore of the Susquehanna.
        Our waters, land and air protected is the reason we have regulations.  Where are the regulations insisting on serious investment in scientific, social, and environmental impact study?
         This historic decision to give away our water and allow our state be drilled full of holes, is a decision made by a very small group of people paid by our taxes.
        Demand that your legislators extend the moratorium on drilling  statewide.
          Dearest to us are our children, our property, our families and our community.   How much is the violation that can take away the stress of the fractured relationships this drilling has put on the communities of Pennsylvania?

  • Rjsphoto

    Krancer will be at Lehigh Univ. Friday at 1:00.  

  • Paul

    Fracking is killing the Susquehanna,we used to catch channel cats all night long unti fracking started up north

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »