Babb Creek, a tributary of the famed Pine Creek in Tioga County, Pa., drains approximately 130 square miles mostly from state forest lands, contributing about 13 percent of Pine Creek’s flow. Main tributary streams of Babb Creek include Stony Fork and Wilson Creek, which drain the western half of the watershed, and Long Run and Lick Creek, which flow in from the east. Early coal mining devastated Babb Creek, resulting in significant production of acid mine drainage with toxic concentrations of dissolved metals, including iron, aluminum and manganese. Most tributary streams and parts of the Babb Creek’s main stem were biologically dead by the late 1800s.
As a result of 18 abatement projects and close to $8 million in project funding, five miles of Pine Creek and 14 miles of Babb Creek have been removed from EPA’s list of impaired waters and the creek now supports a thriving trout fishery. With hundreds of shale gas wells being drilled in the surrounding Tioga Co., Babb Creek faces a new threat from energy development. Spills, leaks and potential pollution from well pads in upland areas could flow down into Babb Creek and ultimately Pine Creek. Deforestation for well pads and new roads could increase the temperatures in Babb Creek and its tributaries, creating unhealthy habitat for trout.
Monitoring shale gas development impacts on streams is critical to ensuring that as drilling is happening, the effort to restore Babb Creek is not undone.