|Slaughterhouse waste, Bridgeport|
A serious effort to save the river was undertaken in 1948, when the state of Pennsylvania authorized the Schuylkill Project, which dredged millions of tons of coal silt from the river. (You can read more about this in Chari Towne's book A River Again). Later, in the 1950s, sewer systems were built and laws were enacted that placed restrictions on what could be dumped in the water.
So now, raw sewage and chemicals aren't routinely being poured untreated into the river. That's good. But when it comes to polluting the Schuylkill, we're not out of the water yet, so to speak.
What are today's issues impacting the river? Stormwater run-off, acid mine drainage and agricultural contaminants. Those are the three key areas targeted by the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund, which is administered by the Schuylkill River Heritage Area. The fund has been around since 2006, and since that time it has collected more than $2 million for projects that help keep potential pollutants out of the river. A total of 42 projects have been funded through this program, which gets money from Exelon Generation, the Philadelphia Water Dept. and Aqua PA..
Over 6,500 feet of stream banks have been protected from the impacts of stormwater runoff by various means such as planting riparian buffers and stabilizing the banks (see photo on right). Manure containment systems that keep animal waste out of the Schuylkill and its tributaries have been constructed on numerous farms in Berks County; and projects at several abandoned Schuylkill County coal mines prevent toxic acid drainage from entering the river.