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Delaware River Chocolate Brown

The Delaware River turned from crystal clear on June 24 at Belvidere, NJ to muddy brown, bank to bank, on Monday morning, June 26—and there was no storm. The river looked like the Mississippi from the upper reaches in New York State to Easton/Phillipsburg, over 100 miles of river. DRN notified the agencies in PA, NJ, and NY on Monday morning. By the end of the day, the explanation offered by New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) was that the June 19 horrific flash floods of the East Branch and the headwaters of streams in Delaware and Sullivan County caused runoff and muddy water and that the emergency clean up operations underway were contributing further muddy runoff. The reddish muddy condition of the river continues through the week. PADEP reported that they checked each major discharge and found no problems and that the Lehigh River was running clear. NYDEC reported that “stream cleaning” may cause muddy water off and on for a month. While DRN certainly understands the need for emergency removal of hazardous debris and the repair of bridges and roads, careful oversight is needed by NYDEC in permitting issued for the coming weeks of clean up.

Further sediment pollution to the streams can be prevented during clean up and repair through proper management and practice. The Delaware Riverkeeper lodged complaints with NYDEC after the 2006 floods because there were incidents of bulldozing and other damaging activities in the affected streams long after the floods, causing further degradation and damaging the streams’ ability to contain flood flows in the future. DRN sent a letter on June 26 to NYDEC investigating the genesis of the flash flood in the Delaware River’s upper reaches in the New York Catskills June 19 and inquiring how NYDEC is planning to oversee and permit clean up efforts related to this recent flood.