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Groups intend to sue PA Fish and Boat Commission over hatchery

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 8:51 p.m.

Two environmental advocacy groups Thursday accused the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission of violating the federal Clean Water Act at its Bellefonte fish hatchery in Centre County and insist they plan to sue.

According to a notice of intent to sue, PennEnvironment and Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project allege that the commission is discharging excessive amounts of nitrogen and other pollutants into Spring Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The groups also accuse the commission of exceeding its effluent discharge limits — sometimes bypassing its micro-filter system — under the terms of an expired but administratively extended permit from the Department of Environmental Protection.

“It's unacceptable to have this facility, whose mission is to help us enjoy Pennsylvania's waterways, turn around and pollute them,” said David Masur, director of PennEnvironment, which has offices in Squirrel Hill and Philadelphia.

The commission has been pushing state and federal environmental officials for more than a year to declare the Susquehanna an impaired waterway, given how populations of smallmouth bass have declined.

“We have just become aware of the filing and need time to thoroughly review and analyze the document. We have no additional comments at this time,” commission spokesman Eric Levis said.

Plaintiffs are required to submit a 60-day notice letter of intent to sue to the facility in question and state and federal environmental regulators, attorneys for PennEnvironment and EIP said. If action hasn't been taken to resolve the problem over those 60 days, the groups can move forward with the litigation.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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