Susquehanna River’s branches have a vocal defenderphoto by R Inglis, Daily Item

1/4/2016, by Rick Dandes, reposted from The Daily Item -- LEWISBURG — Her selection as the first Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper culminates a lifetime spent enjoying, studying and caring for the 444-mile waterway, Hershey native Carol Parenzan says.

The board of the Waterkeeper Alliance in New York City approved the Penn State graduate to the post with a mission of helping to keep the North and West branches north of their confluence in Sunbury clean and free of pollution.

Her task, she says, is what she’s wanted to do all her life.

"I spent many days as a kid paddling the river. I know the river," she said. "I have always been drawn to water. Besides being an avid paddler, I was a competitive swimmer as a child and am now an open water distance swimmer as an adult. I have navigated hundreds of miles of the Susquehanna River and her tributaries by canoe. Because of my love of water, I looked for a college program that would combine my interests in the river, her expanded watershed, math and science."

Parenzan earned an environmental engineering degree with a water concentration from Penn State.

Her career has allowed her to focus on environmental challenges and solutions with an engineering perspective.

Parenzan has worked in upstate New York as a water systems consultant with municipalities and engineering firms on water and wastewater systems and as managing principal and owner of a subsurface investigation and mapping company that used geophysics to locate underground utility pipelines.

It is now her job — currently unpaid, as she must also raise money from investors, part of which will constitute her salary — to help clean a section of the river.

That’s what riverkeepers do.

Like an entrepreneur, she’ll be contact potential funding groups and agencies.

"Because each of our water bodies and the communities they touch are unique, each keeper’s approach is also unique," she said. "I see myself as an environmentalist, engineer, educator and entrepreneur.

Parenzan’s first focus will always be the river’s health.

"This section of the Susquehanna River is ‘my river,’ she said. "I am responsible for her. I will closely watch decisions and actions by government agencies, water withdrawals and wastewater discharges, stormwater runoff, industries within the watershed and emergency situations."

Strong advocacy

Parenzan’s work is based on the Clean Water Act, which, in 1972, established water quality standards for surface waters such as the Susquehanna River.

"The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper’s aim," said Parenzan, "is to provide strong advocacy that will result in an improved quality of life for all citizens, whether they rely on the Susquehanna for drinking water or recreation, or whether they simply value the river’s continued well-being.

In short, she said, "It is my job to be the voice and advocate for the river and its tributaries and speak up on her behalf to assure that she is protected at all times in order to provide swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters for her communities."

Parenzan will have a big job, said Marc Yaggi, executive director of the Waterkeeper Alliance.

"Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water — from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible governments," Yaggi said. "Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters and the will to enforce our laws, we need to stand up with grassroots advocates like the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper and fight for our right to clean water."

Parenzan will work on watershed-related issues on the Susquehanna River, beginning at the Adam T. Bower Memorial Dam near Sunbury and on the North Branch to the New York state border and on the West Branch to Clearfield.

"It’s a calling, that’s for sure," she said. "I’ve always felt you don’t train to become a riverkeeper, you’re born a riverkeeper."

In becoming the Middle Susquehanna’s first riverkeeper, "I feel like I’m coming home," she said. "To my family and to my river. I can read this river like people read books."

(originally posted at

###  (visit EMRC&D Watershed Committee page)