A team of biologists descended upon the Susquehanna River in Tunkhannock for the yearly Procter & Gamble water testing a couple of weeks ago
Overseen by P&G’s Environmental Technician, Corey Susz, the water testing is conducted annually to ensure the river’s water quality.
Since the first initial study began in the 1960’s, P&G has independently sought out to test the river for quality.
Divided into two teams biologists wade into the river to collect data for the quality of the water while others research the quantity of species.
“We’ve been doing this since 1974, we get all the aquatic insects above and below. Insects are good indicators for water quality,” said entomologist David Funk of the Stroud Water research center in Avondale.
Once data is collected, the density and diversity of the specimens are analyzed and identified in the Stroud reseach lab. While collecting the data only takes a few days, the analysis takes months, Funk said. He estimates an inventory of 160-180 species of insects found as part of the P&G annual water study.
Collecting the specimens is done with nets, sieves, kicking up rocks, and digging by hand.
“It’s definitely important. Basically the fact is that we monitor it every year to assure the company that everything is OK” added Stroud scientist Sally Peirson.
The quantitative samples are collected with a cylindrical sampler called a Hess sampler. The sampler is set in the river bottom to prevent leaks then insects are transported through a tube connected to the sample bucket then rinsed into sample containers.
Samples are taken randomly over a 16 meter reach to eliminate any biased data. To maintain consistency through the years the biologists return to the same sites on the river.
Testing spans over 2-3 days and lasts approximately four hours per day. The test sites span from upstream of P&G in Meshoppen, behind the plant in Mehoopany, and end downstream in Tunkhannock. “It’s a lot of hard work but it’s fun. [The river] looks typical,” said entomologist Michael Broomall.
On a test site the biologists will usually find 80-110 species in one location. “We’re always looking for diversity” said biologist Jan Battle, “The more the better, it’s important for everyone.”
There are several species of flies that are sensitive to changes in the river’s health; mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies. Mayflies are a sensitive species that emerge from the river at the same time.
“I think what a lot of readers might not realize is how important bugs are. Everything is connected, the fish eat the bugs so it can’t be polluted. So if you want healthy fish, you need lots of bugs,” added biologist Kerry Mapes.
On their search for Macroinvertebrates the biologists discovered a species they have only seen in Tunkhannock’s river.
A species known as the flat-headed mayfly, or Heptagenia-culcantha, can only be found in the Susquehanna.
Biologists were happy with this finding since the small invertebrates are sensitive to their environment.
According to Funk, flies are the first species to disappear if the river is unhealthy but the Susquehanna’s numbers “look good.”
A fish study is conducted once every three years. There are certain parameters the river must meet for the data to be valid for the fish study. Due to flooding last year they could not test as scheduled.
“Basically what they are looking for are all the warm water river fish that should be in the river,” said P&G spokesman Alex Fried. This year’s study is scheduled for August.
Conditions were ideal for testing and P&G remains pleased with the health of the Susquehanna, Susz added, “the river is thriving!”