Appalachian Basin

Milling Over Non-Existent Water Pollution In Milford

Last week the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) held a public hearing in Milford, New York.  The hearing included a presentation by Andrew J. Gavin, SRBC Manager of Monitoring and Protection.  As part of his official duties Gavin conducts extensive water testing in the Susquehanna River Basin. SRBC has an extensive water monitoring network in place throughout the Susquehanna’s mainstem and high value feeder streams located in close proximity to natural gas recovery operations (interestingly these have never shown any contamination from natural gas activities). More after the jump

Gavin also oversees the Commission’s efforts regarding their Proposed Rulemaking pertaining to modifications of project review regulations,  most of which relate to the approval of natural gas projects.  Bear in mind that SRBC already requires more aggressive requirements for natural gas operations than any other permit they approve.

Anti-natural gas advocates showed up seeing the hearing as a target of opportunity to attack natural gas development in general.  Though their well-worn claims and rhetoric didn’t pass the scientific test put forward For anyone interested in the facts, though, the hearing was a reassuring demonstration of the responsible manner in which the Marcellus Shale opportunity is being pursued.

The Presentation:

Gavin explained the SRBC’s extensive water monitoring system that has been set up throughout the Susquehanna River Basin.  This system consists of several different water testing rods.  These rods are placed at areas to test the water flowing into the Susquehanna River.  They are also located throughout the mainstem of the Susquehanna River to monitor water quality in the river itself.  These devices provide real time measurements and report the information back to SRBC’s website every five minutes.  The water is tested for temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and turbidity.  This information is collected 365 days a year, throughout every season, during wet and dry periods thereby providing an accurate sample of conditions in the river which then can be used as a base  to compare other data.

The Public Comment Period:

Following the presentation on the monitoring network attendees had the opportunity to speak and ask questions.  One questioner asked how the SRBC would handle a situation when any of the water quality parameters were elevated thus showing a potential contaminant.  Gavin explained SRBC staff would go into the field to make sure the report was not just an abnormality and if it was not and was an actual concern the incident would be reported to the state for further investigation and activity.

Once questions concluded the floor was opened to public comment. From there things went downhill fast – very fast.  This portion of the meeting was essentially turned into a circus of sorts where 20 or so people monopolized time to declare their resistance to the natural gas production.  Some made highly technical arguments like gas drilling will poison the water forever and kill people (according to a board member of New York Residents Against Drilling or “NYRAD”). Keep in mind this is despite the fact that countless water testing by DEP and the Commonwealth’s largest water utility has shown this to be false and has also debunked multiple claims.   As USGS has reported in an exhaustive 20 year study there is much contamination in private wells but none has shown any contamination from toxic materials by natural gas production.  Not one instance, ever.  Methane migration has occurred in limited quantities but this has been confined to a very limited geographic area in northeast Pennsylvania and methane is non-toxic. That didn’t stop the protestors from parroting their claims.  The videos below offer examples of the hysteria on parade.

Another woman travelled to Milford from out of state.  She came to tell people that “eventually all the fluid used will end up in the rivers.”  You can listen to this nonsensical argument below.  My editor won’t give me the space to tell you all the ways this is completely untrue.  You know what does end up in the river though, hundreds, no millions if not billions, of raw untreated sewage each year.  More on that here and here.

The Commission:

Members of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission who were present indicated they would do everything they could to maintain the integrity of the area’s natural environment.  They have heavily regulated water withdrawals, for example.  They also briefly discussed revisions made to the Proposed Rulemaking.

This SRBC public hearing was extremely informative and the presentations were extremely informative.  The contrast of the Commission’s professional approach with the quality of the testimony received from NYRAD true-believers was an eye-opener and we look forward to documenting more of this contrast.

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