It started with a run. I’m not much of a runner, but in deer season there isn’t much woods walking to be done, and I needed to get outside. I donned my orange vest and started up the same hill that I have been running or walking for 25 years.
In 1930, my greatgrandparents purchased a beautiful farm in Bradford County, PA, in a little hamlet called French Azilum. In the summer, we spent time there, resting, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the wild flowers, the bright stars and planets on a clear moonlit night, and swimming in the Susquehanna River. If gas drilling is allowed to continue, Bradford County and all of Pennsylvania will be forever changed, ruined beyond repair.
|Michelle Beegle: PA farmer, nurse, grandmother|
Clearville, Bedford County, PA
|Opinion: Our Susquehanna River Is Sick|
|By Douglas E Fessler, Sunbury, PA|
My story starts at just one point along the life-giving Susquehanna River. Sunbury primarily gets its drinking water from Little Shamokin Creek (Plum Creek), secondarily it pulls from the Susquehanna River.
Using too much cow manure on fields, use of pesticides and herbicides, and contamination from mine acid runoff are just some of the problems in our local area relating to keeping our water clean and safe.
So the problems that are in our waterways cannot fall on the shoulders of the water treatment plants alone, they can only do so much as explained below.
The Loyalsock Creek is a 64-mile tributary that empties into West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Recent talking about fracking in the Loyalsock State Forest is leading to another example how hasty decisions 64 miles inland can affect future generations (who will be left to deal with unforeseen problems). People will tell you what that it’s safe now, but again, unforeseen consequences come into play. For example, the effects of mine runoff have made the Shamokin Creek one of the most polluted waterways in Pennsylvania. This creek transports around 5,000 pounds of lead to the Susquehanna River annually.
The Shamokin Creek contributes 53 percent of the total lead that reaches the Susquehanna River. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises against any swimming in or consumption of the water of the Shamokin Creek, this means water treatment plants can't clean the water.
This example shows exactly how the unregulated management of our waterways can lead to undrinkable - to literally unusable -water.
Do we sit around and wait for the Susquehanna River to reach this breaking point? Do we look at the problem individually asking what can I do about it? Do we point fingers to find out exactly whose problem it is? The truth is it’s a problem for all of us and it’s going to take communities up and down the Susquehanna River coming together to address the issues as Pennsylvanians.
The Susquehanna River and its tributaries are barometric windows to the health of the environment. The health of the environment is directly related to us and our future generations; it’s the food we eat and the air we breathe. Despite what we are told, our river is sick and it’s up to us to fix it. We are no longer the children... we are the adults we once looked to make sure everything was OK.
Douglas Fessler is active in the annual Susquehanna River Cleanup Project and in other local watershed groups in and around Sunbury. He can be contacted by sending email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susquehanna Smallmouth Bass Send SOS
Op-Ed: Antique Sewage System Cannot Persist In Pittsburgh
Allegheny River Cleanup Sept. 6, 8, 12, 13
|DEP Lists Water Supplies Damaged, High Hydrogen Sulfide Emissions From Gas Drilling|
|The Department of Environmental Protection Thursday released a table listing the 248 water supplies found by DEP to be contaminated by oil and natural gas drilling from 2008 to 2014, about 1.2 percent of new wells drilled during that time period.|
Other complaints are still being investigated.
According to Scott Perry, DEP Deputy Secretary for Oil and Gas Management, about half the water supplies were damaged by conventional oil and gas wells and about half were unconventional (Marcellus Shale) gas wells.
The problems include methane gas contamination, spills of wastewater and other pollutants, and wells that went dry or were otherwise rendered undrinkable. The records show that some of the problems were temporary. The table with links to the letters of determination by DEP or the orders issued to correct the problems.
DEP also posted a list of 19 oil and gas wells that have high levels of hydrogen sulfide emissions-- greater than 20 ppm. 14 of the wells with high emissions were conventional oil and gas wells and 5 were unconventional (Marcellus Shale) wells.
7 of the wells are still active, 8 have been plugged, 2 were abandoned wells and 2 are in regulatory inactive status (inactive, but not abandoned or producing).
Hydrogen sulfide can cause conjunctivitis and respiratory tract irritation at levels of 50 to 100 ppm and loss of consciousness and possibly death after 30 minutes of exposure at levels of 500 to 700 ppm.
DEP reports 20,178 conventional and unconventional oil and gas wells were drilled between January 2008 and the end of July 2014. There were 12,098 conventional wells and 8,080 unconventional (Marcellus Shale) wells.
Copies of the list of damaged water supplies and the wells with hydrogen sulfide emissions are available online.
DEP Releases List Of 248 Wells Impacted By Drilling
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DEP Publishes List of Water Supplies Damaged By Drilling
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