The Death of the Delaware River

A photo circa 1965 showing an outfall pier being built on the Schuylkill River, where it flows into the Delaware River. Prior to the Clean Water Act, little regulation existed to halt industrial pollution and raw sewage from flowing into the nation’s waterways. (PWD archival photo)

Joe Newton would fish on the Delaware River every day if he could. “It depends on the weather and the conditions and the like,” the Willingboro, N.J. resident said as he readied his 20-foot motor boat for a morning on the river near the border of Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County.

He gestured to the three men standing behind him, who, like him, are members of the Delaware River Fishermen’s Association. “If I don’t plan to go out some of these nuts call me up and twist my arm and get me out there.”

The idea that he could fish on the lower Delaware would have been unthinkable when he moved to the area in 1975.

“I’m originally from North Jersey and I grew up fishing in the Northern Delaware which is basically pristine water,” he said. “You can eat the fish, the water is clear. When I came down here, you wouldn’t dare eat the fish and the water had about maybe three foot of visibility. And a lot of debris.”

photo: Ruth Jones is the owner of Kittatinny canoes in Delaware Water Gap, PA

Ruth Jones is the owner of Kittatinny canoes in Delaware Water Gap, Pa. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

His fishing buddy Ron Soto has similar memories of the river. “It didn’t smell good, and it didn’t look good,” he said. […]

More about pollution and the health of our rivers:

With Green Makeover, Philadelphia Tackles Its Stormwater Problem

Where’s The Fresh Water Going?

New York City’s $1 Billion Leaking Water Infrastructure Repair

WWF Report Explores Rivers’ Less Valued Benefits

Interfaith Leaders From Across The World Pledge To Protect Rivers, Glaciers

The death of the Delaware River
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The death of the Delaware River
Fishing the lower Delaware was "unthinkable" in 1975. You wouldn't dare eat the fish, he said, and the water had about 3' visibility and lots of debris.
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