Appalachian Basin

Hung up on The Worstell Impoundment

Impoundments used in natural gas development have been a highly contested issue in Cecil Township over the last few months.  Recently, at a Cecil Township supervisors meeting, impoundments were again brought up, mostly regarding the Worstell Impoundment located in the Township.  Special time was set aside prior to this meeting to go over what the Township supervisors discussed during a meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding the impoundment.  The supervisors then took comment from the public to listen to the residents’ concerns and decide a course of action.

For anyone not familiar with the Worstell impoundment please read here and here.

One of the first residents to speak was Joe Kirby, whose farm actually holds the impoundment. Kirby is a dairy farmer and lives closer to the impoundment than anyone else that spoke at the meeting.  Here’s what Joe had to say right off the bat:

“What they’re doing at the site doesn’t really bother me, and no one is affected more than me.  I have hay fields, I have corn fields and there haven’t been any issues.” (00:01)

In theory, that should have been the end of the meeting if the focus was truly about potential impacts. But we still had plenty of time and more people to hear from.  The next couple to speak was Tom and Kathy Bullions of Swihart Rd:

“I will tell you that we catch rain water, we pump it out for my garden and to wash our cars because we don’t have city water.  We have to be very frugal with the well water that we have.  I will tell you that when I run that rain water into buckets, it smokes.  I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve shown it to Tom and my son, so there’s something wrong with that rain water. Also, the animal population is gone.  Since the impoundment has gone in we have had zero birds come to our feeders besides two and those were cardinals with no feathers on their head.  (05:50)

I’ve never been to the Bullions’ home, so for all I know there are cardinals with no feathers on their heads and smoking rain water.  But what I do know is there is no proof of this, and if this is in fact occurring, there’s no testing showing the impoundment is responsible. Further, it’s not happening on the property with the impoundment.

The Bullions believe these phenomena are caused by air pollution from natural gas development.  It’s worth noting the recent emissions report from the DEP looking at impoundments and how, because of natural gas, the air in Pennsylvania and more specifically Pittsburgh is much cleaner. The graphic below – pulled directly from The Breakthrough Institute’s own research – highlights DEP’s findings.


Before Kirby addressed the crowd of residents one final time, and after all testimony was given, we heard from a gentleman who, in his own words, calls himself pro natural gas development:

It’s a little scary what I just heard, to be honest with you. I’ve been a supporter of the industry. I like the whole program, I think it’s good for the state and the community.” (08:30)

This statement is extremely telling in what we encounter every day from those opposed to the development of this clean domestic energy: scare tactics. While many may have concerns about risks and the many aspects of development, many just want it banned or considerably restricted. They can’t win on the merits, so they try to scare the public with anecdotes.

Finally, Kirby took the podium again to speak about what he heard from the other Cecil residents:

“I am a dairy farmer. I am required to get my water tested every month by the state and federal government.  Nothing comes back bad, there is nothing in my water and that includes everything a cow can drink out of on my 15 acre farm.” (22:27)

The farmer whose property holds the impoundment tells his neighbors and local representatives that there is no problem with it.  People are scared of water contamination, yet his water is tested every month and without incident.

The next time you hear wild claims about the Worstell Impoundment, remember that if there were any significant impacts, they’d certainly be felt by the person on whose property it sits.

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