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Congratulations to the Delaware River!

The resurgence of the Delaware River has received well-deserved recognition. Beating out river basins all across the United States, the Delaware was named River of the Year for 2020 by national environmental group American Rivers.

With much of Eastern Pennsylvania flowing into the Delaware watershed, PennFuture takes seriously our charge as a clean water watchdog for the river.

Our legal team and community organizers defend the Delaware against illegal polluters and from efforts to undermine legal protections. As award-worthy as the Delaware is today, we take nothing for granted, continuously advocating for greater progress.

The source of drinking water for 13.3 million people, the Delaware is now relied upon as a clean water resource. But, 50 years back, the water quality we enjoy today was nearly unimaginable. Polluters recklessly dumped raw sewage and chemicals straight into the river, making it near impossible to sustain even the most basic forms of aquatic life.

“The quality of water in the Delaware has dramatically improved, fish and wildlife have returned in tremendous numbers, and the mainstem of the Delaware remains the longest free-flowing river in the eastern U.S., with the most extensive National Wild and Scenic River protection of any watershed in the country,” writes American Rivers VP of Communications Amy Souers Kober.

American Rivers credits the revitalization to intergovernmental collaboration and effective environmental enforcement, coupled with innovative local water management.

PennFuture is proud of the role our volunteers and campaign staff have played in leading these efforts.

For example, PennFuture is a lead convener for groups such as Our Pocono Waters, a coalition of businesses and conservationists advocating for protection of the Exceptional Value headwaters of the Delaware. A recent campaign successfully thwarted well-heeled owners of resorts and other large developments from weakening regional stream protections.

PennFuture also holds the state lead seat for the Coalition of the Delaware River Watershed, a four-state coalition made up of over 150 members nongovernmental organizations. This coalition is dedicated to “protecting and restoring the Delaware River, its tributaries, and more than 13,500 square miles of forests, wetlands, communities, and other distinctive landscapes in the Watershed, so that clean water and valued resources can be here for generations to come.”

Last month, PennFuture attorneys co-led a draft petition to upgrade water quality standards for a portion of the Delaware River. The petition demands regulators ensure the safety of all who engage in direct contact recreation – such as jet skiing and kayaking, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding and tubing.

In addition to advocacy work across the watershed, PennFuture keeps watch on individual polluters. Earlier this year, PennFuture placed two Philadelphia scrap metal facilities on notice for operating without necessary stormwater pollution controls.

When scrap metal contacts with stormwater, pollutants such as motor oil, grease, lead, chromium, cadmium, copper, mercury and zinc may flow into the Delaware River. Our actions are deterring scrap yards and other industrial facilities who may otherwise operate with inadequate pollution control measures.

Let’s continue to celebrate and protect the Delaware River.

Throughout the year, we will pair volunteers with their elected officials, educating leaders on the benefits of clean streams. Join us to help ensure the steady flow of clean water progress.

River of the Year? We’ll drink to that.

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