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What is Codorus Creek's water quality?

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York County Commissioners Julie Wheeler, Ron Smith and Doug Hoke joined the York County Conservation District and York County Planning Commission on Friday at a site of one of the county's water quality monitoring stations. Positioned on Codorus Creek near Saginaw and bordering Hellam and East Manchester townships, this station is monitored and maintained by the United States Geological Survey, USGS, an agency within the federal government's Department of the Interior.

USGS takes 52,000 samples in a year, collecting data to determine flow levels along the stream, water temperature, pH level, specific conductance, turbidity and nitrates. There are 96 values taken each day, which determine sediment loads. For instance, more turbidity means more sediment, which carries nutrients that impact water quality.

Water quality monitoring has been an initiative of the Planning Commission, backed by the Commissioners. A 2018 proposal to create a countywide stormwater authority lacked public support, so the county looked to these stations to collect data on the quality of our water.

"An essential question during the process of a proposed stormwater authority was, 'How good is our data and where do we need to invest in water quality?'" explained Planning Commission Director Felicia Dell. “This is not being done anywhere else in Pennsylvania.”

On this late-September Friday morning, the Codorus Creek near its mouth to the Susquehanna River had a nitrogen level of 2.9 milligrams per liter, which USGS officials said is pretty low. But they pointed out that the flow of the creek was also low that day, so nitrates are likely not coming from upstream. For perspective, drinking water measuring at 15 milligrams per liter of nitrogen can be harmful to red blood cells to consume.

There are six continuous water quality monitoring stations in York County, with the county funding three and USGS helping with the rest. They are located on the Codorus at Saginaw, Muddy Creek at Castle Fin, Fishing Creek at Craley, Fishing Creek at Goldsboro and Kreutz Creek at Stricklersville.

The monitoring stations in York County are giving York County intricate data to compare with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to get a better idea of what exactly the water quality is.

"It's great to have the ability to quantify things like nitrogen, sediment and phosphorous in our streams," said York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler. "Having this data will better enable the county to make strategic decisions regarding stormwater."

Information collected by USGS is viewable online, with the Saginaw station's provisional data accessible here.

 

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