Lehigh Valley

Delaware River's health improving, scientists say

LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa. - "What do you look for in a spot stop?" WFMZ Reporter Bo Koltnow asked Delaware River Basin Commission scientist Elaine Panuccio, while riding in a flat bottom boat on the Delaware river.

"The richest habitat area," she said.

For Panuccio and crew that stop is near an island just north of Easton.

Using a snorkel, Panuccio searched through the underwater real estate.

"You're looking for tiny macro invertebrates; that is a good indication of water quality," she said after coming up for air.

As Panuccio probes river rocks, an intern scuffs the bottom. It's all in an effort to catch the tiny micro inhabitants of this underwater world to gauge the health of the river.

"Stone fly are good indicators of water quality, mayfly larva," she said.

"What's bad?" Koltnow asked.

"Aquatic worms and leeches are a big one," responded intern Andrew Garcia.

This is one of 25 different stops along a 200-mile stretch of the Delaware River checked every two years.
"Really doesn't look much different at all," Panuccio said.

The Delaware River Basin Commission is responsible for managing the 15,000 square mile area that runs through four states.

"Can't manage what you don't measure," said River basin's Peter Eschbach.

He adds that in the past 40 years the river's health has come a long way. A critical factor, considering 15 million people use it for their drinking water.

"Does that include the Lehigh Valley?"

"Yes, all the tributaries, the Schuylkill, Lehigh, streams all flow in," he said.

The micros captured are then sifted and sent to a lab for further testing--tiny finds that can offer big clues to the health of the river.

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