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Identification of Pollutants in the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed: A Recommendation for Protection

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Featured image for the project, Identification of Pollutants in the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed: A Recommendation for Protection

Local sources of pollution in the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed impact surface and groundwater. These contaminants have an adverse effect on the quality of municipal and well-drinking water sources, locally caught fish and other aquatic life, wildlife,  biodiversity, and recreational safety (fishing, swimming, and boating). This project aims to collect and analyze a baseline of information from existing data, maps, and fieldwork to assess sources of contamination and their possible impacts. Community education, engagement, and action will be emphasized throughout the project. A final report will include recommendations for immediate actions and suggestions for further monitoring, testing, and remediation.

Description

About the Community

Move Past Plastic has brought together a grassroots group of organizations, including local government, academics, scientists, experts, and concerned citizens living in and around the Conodoguinet Creek watershed. The Conodoguinet Creek snakes for 104.5 miles from the Kittatinny Ridge, down the Cumberland Valley, and into the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg. It cuts across Franklin and Cumberland counties East to West and touches Dauphin County. This 524-square-mile watershed is home to 40 municipalities and predominantly resides in Cumberland County, the fastest-growing county in Pennsylvania. The area also includes Dickinson College, Shippensburg University, Army War College, and the Naval Support Activity in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The watershed also has two world-renowned high-quality limestone trout fishing streams: Yellow Breeches and LeTort Creek.

Before 2000, the area was primarily rural and agricultural. Since 2000, significant farmland has been replaced with suburban sprawl, including housing, warehouses, and big box stores. Challenges to the creek include intense stormwater runoff carrying pollutants and sediment.  In addition to nonpoint source pollution from developed impervious surfaces, there is potential point source pollution from several manufacturing facilities that use per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

The community would like to establish a baseline of contamination—including Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), Heavy Metals, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and other contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products—from existing data, maps, and fieldwork to assess actual and potential point source chemical contamination and determine current and future impacts. 

 

About the Project

A report will provide an analysis and a conclusion recommending further monitoring, testing, and remediation. Known and potential point and non-point source contamination with and without current toxicity data will be identified. It will include abiotic and biotic data, charts, graphs, and maps. Known data will include chemical and biotic type, testing dates, locations, and amounts.

The recommendations will also include wastewater discharge and treatment by both industry and municipality, drinking water treatment by the municipality and third-party providers, restrictions on landfill leachate land application of biosolids if contaminated with PFAS, remediation by military base if contaminated, and measures that homeowners could take like installing filters on faucets used for drinking and cooking.

These recommendations will be shared with the municipalities in the Conodoguinet watershed’s local and county government, NGOs, colleges/universities, scientists, businesses, farmers, and residents. The information will help drive further education, research, science, and policies to minimize and clean up contamination. The recommendations will also be used to apply for grants to further educate, research, and prevent and remediate contaminated areas to improve the watershed’s health and the local community’s health. Community education, engagement, and action will be emphasized throughout the project. 

  • Activities
    • Gather and analyze initial data
      • Literature review (including UCMR 5 occurrence data
      • Interview local/related NGOs and foundations
      • Analyze this information to determine what additional data would be helpful
    • Use conclusions to advocate and drive policy, behavior changes, and further research
  • Outputs 
    • Comprehensive written report with recommendations for further monitoring, testing, and remediations
    • 1-pager Infographic
    • Letters to impacted government agencies, NGOs, Conodoguinet Creek Watershed academic and municipalities land use sustainability planning departments.
    • Press release
    • Op-eds will be written and submitted to local and state newspapers, Bay Journal, PA Environment Digest Blog, and the Stream of Consciousness. etc.
    • Website
  • Outcomes 
    • The community, watershed organizations, NGOs, educational institutions, governing leaders, and regulatory bodies will have access to the current known PFAS and other hazardous chemical contaminants, microplastic contamination, and tangible recommendations for further monitoring, testing, and remediation.
  • Impacts
    • The local community will be better informed about human and environmental harms and will have more tools and power to address contamination and exposure.
    • Scientists will know where there are holes in the data and where to dedicate further research. 
    • Other communities will have a model to follow

Timeline and Milestones (see also table below)

December 2023-January 2024: Recruit Community Scientists and revise scope if needed.

February-April 2024: Initial literature review. Outreach to partner organizations to gather more information.

May-July 2024: Analyze existing data, draw conclusions on where point source pollution is, what type of pollution of concern, and gather additional information.

August-October 2024: Draft initial recommendations.

October-November 2024: Take draft recommendations to stakeholders.

November 2024-January 2025: Finalize recommendations and create and circulate press releases, one-pagers, letters, and websites at press events, city council meetings, tabling events, on social media, etc.

February 2025: Determine the next stage of research.

View Timelines and Milestones Chart Here

Timeline and Milestones (with specific roles and responsibilities)

Project Team

Community Lead

Tamela Trussell. Tamela is the founder of Move Past Plastic (MPP) and TLC Education, a Climate Reality Leader, a Master Watershed Steward, a committee member of the Carlisle Climate Action Commission, and a board member of the Conodoguinet Creek Watershed Association.

 

Community Science Fellow

Michelle Roos headshot

Michelle Roos is the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Network, a national 501c3 nonprofit that leverages the institutional knowledge and experience of over 600 US Environmental Protection Agency alumni to build the capacity of environmental agencies and the communities they serve to combat public health issues, including environmental injustices and climate change. 

Scientist Wanted

We are looking for 2-3 volunteers to serve as full partners on this project throughout the 12-18 month duration.  

  • All volunteers should possess:
    • Experience and/or desire to participate in community education, outreach, and engagement, including answering questions at webinars and/or meetings for community members
    • Strong listening and collaboration skills
    • Relaxed, easy-going personality with a good sense of humor
  • Scientist 1 will:
    • Lead the literature review of existing water quality resources in Cumberland and Franklin Counties,
    • Analyze existing data and draw conclusions on where point sources pollution  is, what type of pollution is on concern
    • Write the draft analysis and conclusion in a report
    • Have a deep understanding of hazardous chemical toxicity in drinking, surface and groundwater, soils, biosolids, wildlife and plant life 
    • Have experience with water quality analysis and watersheds, hydrology
  • Scientist 2 will:
    • Use existing data to aggregate data into a spreadsheet(s)
    • Create graphs and charts and map(s) with pop-up data points (location, date, toxin name, and amounts)
    • Have experience with GIS and data analysis 
  • Volunteer 3 will:
    • Outreach to partner organizations to gather more information. 
    • Create a 1-page infographic.
    • With Community Lead, create and send letters to stakeholders (government agencies, NGOs, Conodoguinet Creek Watershed academic, and municipalities’ land use sustainability planning departments.) , including infographics, reports, websites to map(s), press events, city council meetings, tabling events, and on social media, etc.
    • With Community Lead, create letters to stakeholders, including press releases, infographics, reports, websites to map(s), press events, city council meetings, tabling events, and on social media, etc.
    • With Community Lead, write op-eds & letters to editor to local and state newspapers, Bay Journal, PA Environment Digest Blog, and the Stream of Consciousness. etc.
    • With Community Lead, host webinars, in-person meetings to share draft report and recommendations with municipal leaders, Climate Action Commission, and Land Sustainability Plan Teams, press, and tabling events
    • Have experience in outreach and communications, writing, and organizing

We are open to graduate students, professors working with students, and/or volunteers who are not local to the area.

Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact to which they can contribute as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding together for the next stage.

Interested in volunteering as a scientist? Apply now!