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Improving water quality for trout in a prized recreational watercourse

Michael Rondinelli,

Trout are highly valued freshwater fish, serving an important position in the freshwater food web as both predator and prey, and providing seasonal or year-round enjoyment for recreational anglers. Trout also are sensitive to physical and chemical stressors, and therefore are excellent water quality indicators. 

Because coldwater fish like trout have fairly strict habitat preferences and physiological requirements, they are vulnerable to human-induced disturbances such as residential or commercial development and industrial manufacturing operations. These activities, if not properly managed, can lead to reductions in water quality that may trigger physiological stresses on individual fish or their food sources, or degrade habitat used by trout for foraging, spawning, or rearing of young.  

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) is making progress in reducing these impacts through systematic implementation of water quality regulations specific to protection of aquatic community health. Aquatic taxa such as sediment-dwelling invertebrates and trout are often used by the NYSDEC to support establishment of site-specific discharge limits for various water quality parameters.

One of the ways in which OBG is helping to maintain adequate water quality for freshwater fish like trout is to support industrial clients in their efforts to comply with state discharge limits.  

For example, OBG recently developed a plan for conducting a thermal impact study at a global food company’s manufacturing facility to evaluate potential adverse impacts to brown trout movements in the West Branch Delaware River. The food manufacturer has historically released heated wastewater to the river as part of its manufacturing process at a temperature in excess of New York State limits. 

OBG’s thermal impact study plan is designed to evaluate the extent to which the facility discharge presents a thermal barrier to brown trout migration to preferred spawning areas. The proposed study will provide the basis for an alternative effluent temperature limit that can be incorporated into the facility’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit, and provide critical information for thermal remediation decisions for the facility.

About Michael Rondinelli:
Michael Rondinelli is an ecologist with 25 years of environmental consulting experience, including ecological and human health risk assessment, sediment and water quality issues, and environmental permitting and licensing, with specialization in investigations of anthropogenic impacts on aquatic systems. Michael can be contacted at: Michael.Rondinelli@obg.com.