Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Poison Sumac Is Bad, But Well Pads Are Worse

Photo by David Keeler

It is interesting what people spend their time worrying about. For instance, the view from Wyalusing Rocks (PA) has been a highlight of my visits to the area since childhood. Looking down from there, and with the aid of my binoculars, I can see my family summer home on the banks of the Susquehanna River. A white steeple can be seen through trees. That's what I call "The Little White Church," otherwise known as French Azilum United Methodist Church. My great grandparents attended there faithfully every Sunday in the summer months years ago, starting around 1930, and are now buried in the old adjacent cemetery.

In a recent article in the Wyalusing Rocket-Courier, David Keeler laments the overgrown sumac trees that block the spectacular view of the Susquehanna River and French Azilum below.

Beneath those famous rocks, the future is being changed irreversibly by the day. Almost every land owner in French Azilum, except for my family, has signed a gas lease, mostly with Chesapeake Appalachia. And before long drill pads will begin to show up on this beautiful landscape. Frenchtown, as I call it, will be an industrial zone in a year or two. Maybe sooner. The view from these rocks will reveal the future of our family's land. There will be no future. There will be well pads everywhere you look. No more floating down the river in inner tubes, no more sitting on the cottage porch enjoying the rain or the full moon and stars, the brightest stars on the planet. No more family gatherings. No more introducing our grandchildren to "Camp," as we call it. No more walking down the country road to that Little White Church for Sunday worship. No more skipping flat round stones from the river bank. No more peace and quiet and fresh country air. It will be gone soon. The dangers of living in a toxic chemical area with its air, soil, and water pollution, will make it an unsuitable place to come in the summer.

Sumac can be cut back. Well pads cannot be erased. After the gas is gone from these wells, the land will never be able to support crops, animals, or people, at least not for decades, and probably never again. These areas will be Superfund sites. I understand why it is easier to worry about sumac. Sumac is a problem that can be solved. Gas drilling is a problem that will outlast all of us and will ruin our children's and grandchildren's future in the Susquehanna Valley in Bradford County.

Read the Rocket-Courier article here.


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