It’s that time of year again for Procter & Gamble’s health check of the Susquehanna River.
Last week, a team from Stroud Water Research Center out of Avondale began its annual survey on behalf of P&G, collecting macroinvertebrates for testing at four sites on the river.
P&G has been arranging an independent study of the Susquehanna River for 55 years, which is the length of time its Mehoopany plant has been in existence, according to company spokesperson Jose de los Rios.
“As a good steward of the environment, our intent is to understand the impact the plant has on aquatic life on the river and the health of the river,” de los Rios said. “We use the river survey as a check to ensure that we are having a minimum impact on the river.”
Mike Broomall, an entomology technician from Stroud, was collecting samples on July 22 with research assistants Adam Gochnauer and Courtland Hess past the boat launch at Riverside Park in Tunkhannock. Broomall said the second half of their team plans to come out this week.
All three entomologists came in separate vehicles, wore face masks and practiced social distancing because of the ongoing situation with COVID-19.
“We’re examining two sites below the plant and two sites above the plant to get an idea of the insect population, the density and diversity,” Broomall said. “Understanding the insects, how many you have and what’s out there in the stream, you can determine the health of the stream.”
The team lucked out with good weather in the morning, but intended to finish up by noon because of the predicted thunderstorm. Each year, they also have to watch the water levels in the river before heading out.
“Typically at a site, we get 80 to 110 species,” Broomall explained. “Typically you want to find the indicator species of a healthy stream, caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies. Those are all certainly here in the Susquehanna.”
Although their findings still need to be examined, he expects positive results based on what they discovered so far.
“It’s a healthy stream. It’s got good diversity,” he said. “Overall throughout all the sites we’ve seen about 160 to 180 species.”
If a survey ever yields negative results, de los Rios said P&G would begin an immediate investigation and partner with Stroud and other groups which can help the company solve the problem.
This was Gochnauer’s first time participating in the survey with Stroud. He said P&G is “going out of their way to do it, which is nice to see.”
Broomall also admires the company’s efforts to monitor its impact on the Susquehanna River over the past few decades.
“They want to know and they’ve had us here for many, many years. If you hired someone for one year, you might only get a snapshot,” he said. “You’re not going to get the whole picture if you’re not doing it multiple years. With that many years, they have a great idea of what’s going on.”