A large shipping vessel travels down the Delaware River. Photo by Rick Rickman.

A deafening fog horn from a passing shipping vessel sounded in the first few minutes of a press conference held Friday at the Bristol Wharf to recognize the importance of the Delaware River Basin Commission.

Director of Communications and External Affairs Peter Eschbach opened the press conference noting the incredible achievement of the DRBC in transforming the Delaware River.

“This river wasn’t always as nice as you see it today,” Eschbach said. “I remember as a boy scout many years ago how bad the river smelled. Now, you’ve got paddle board yoga on the river in Penn’s Landing.”

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy joined the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware in creating a commission to ensure the environmental health and stability of the Delaware River.

Since its inception, the commission has made strides in reducing pollution, managing droughts, and creating conditions for the return of fish populations to the river. It has also allowed for 15 million people, including every person in Philadelphia, to use the the Delaware River as their source for drinking water.

Despite the frequent usage of water taken from the river by industry and power plants, in some areas exceeding more than 1 billion gallons per day, the river continues to flow almost unaffected.

DRBC policy dictates for every gallon used, a gallon must be replaced back into the river. Without this agreement, the river would be unusable for anyone.

John Yagecic talks on the importance of water quality management in the Delaware River. Photo by Rick Rickman.

According to Manager of Water Quality Assessment John Yagecic, one of the many tasks of the DRBC is ensuring new projects will not change the chemical makeup of the river, or its quality.

To test the water, a multi-parameter water meter is lowered below the surface and collects a sample. It measures oxygen levels, temperature, salt, and pollution.

Another project sought to measure the amount of micro-plastics released by industries into the river, such as ones used for the creation of fleece. However, EPA Grant 106 was cut in 2016 and the project has been postponed.