VALLEY FORGE, PA—Local comm- unity groups have taken another step forward in their decades-long efforts to protect and restore Valley Creek, a pristine wild trout stream running through Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Recent spills from a 36-year-old sewage pipeline running parallel to Valley Creek have threatened water quality, but an impending NELC lawsuit on behalf of PennEnvironment and the Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited (VFTU) has compelled state environmental regulators to take their own legal action to protect Valley Creek (see related story, 2015 Winter – Legal Action Against Penn. Municipality Protects Valley Forge).
“We’ve worked too long and too hard to restore Valley Creek to its current exceptional quality to let it be turned into a sewer every time the latest patch to this old pipeline fails,” said Owen Owens, a member of VFTU and PennEnvironment who has been central to the creek’s restoration.
Owens has been working to protect and restore Valley Creek for the last 30 years. An avid fly fisherman, he cofounded the Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited in 1976 to protect the trout habitat in Chester County, Pa. By the mid-1980s, VFTU turned its focus to Valley Creek, which had been plagued by sewage, farm runoff, silt from dams, storm water erosion, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) emanating from an upstream Superfund site.
VFTU members helped call public attention to the PCB contamination, and helped secure funding for the efforts of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to monitor PCB levels in area trout.
VFTU was also instrumental in preventing two large development projects that would have significantly increased pollution, in persuading Walmart and Home Depot to collect and channel the rainwater from roofs and parking lots into the ground (rather than allowing it to flow into the creek), and in providing the inadequately- shaded creek with an influx of cool water from a nearby quarry.
VFTU is not alone in its efforts; it is one of five non-profit organizations that make up the Valley Creek Coalition. These groups focus on projects—such as promoting water- efficient parking lots and planting new trees on the creek bank—that will help to get more water into the ground in the Valley Creek Watershed.
“It is the tireless work of local groups such as these that forms the backbone of water preservation and reclamation efforts throughout the country,” noted NELC Staff Attorney Heather Govern, who authored the Clean Water Act notice letter that prompted the recent legal action by the Pennsylvania DEP to address the sewage spills that have lately fouled Valley Creek.