Appalachian Basin

Seriously, Guys? You’re Protesting RiverFest?

Haven’t had the chance yet to formally introduce myself; hope to do that a bit later this week by way of a post on the site. But the quick file on me is that I was born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania — about the length of two unfurled rings of kielbasa from the Susquehanna River. I served in the Marine Corps, and spent time in the Middle East serving our country in Iraq. Since then, most of my professional experience has been in the fight to protect and preserve clean water, most recently as a manager for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

Given that background, then, perhaps you can see why a guy like me would be disappointed in an article like this, which appeared earlier this week in the Times Leader. In it, TL reporter Terrie Morgan-Besecker essentially turns over the space to activists from the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC), who decided to launch a formal protest of the Wyoming Valley RiverFest earlier this month simply because the event was supported in part by Chesapeake and Williams.  From the piece (after the jump):

Don Williams of Wyalusing Rocks said he opposes the decision to accept sponsorship money from Chesapeake Energy and Williams Energy Services based on the industry’s history of polluting the Susquehanna River. … “You can’t take money form [sic.] those who are polluting the river,” [GDAC’s Scott] Cannon said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Set aside the fact that the Marcellus industry’s “history” in our area is roughly 36 months long. Set aside the fact that not a single natural gas company operating in our area has done a single adverse thing to that river. And set aside the fact that the Susquehanna has basically been a no-swim zone since the early 80s. Set aside all that, and let’s look at the sources of impairment as reported by U.S. EPA, PA DEP and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) from 2010 — well after natural gas development in PA began.

By far the largest contributor to impairment of the river is agriculture.  Forty-three percent of all pollutants are in the form of nutrients and sedimentation emanating from agricultural lands.  In fact, these pollutants are so burdensome that the federal government this year is adopting a TMDL for the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.  Maybe we should start protesting family farms and grocery stores, right Scott?

Second on the list, acid mine drainage (AMD).  This source affects approximately 1,940 stream miles in the basin and is arguably the most severe source of pollution in the entire state. Again, zero connection to natural gas. In fact, some producers are actually working to collect this AMD water and put it to productive use — in the process preventing more of it to leak into our streams and rivers.

So, what are the other pollutants affecting our river?  Urban and suburban runoff unable to be handled by stormwater systems during significant wet weather events; atmospheric deposition (pollutants emanating from other sources and dropping here); and finally combined sewer overflows. No contamination from natural gas activities. Not anywhere on the list.

Truth is, there has not been a single instance in which natural gas production has further polluted the Susquehanna River.  The Chesapeake incident a few months ago did reach a feeder stream for the Susquehanna but monitoring by Chesapeake, PA DEP and SRBC showed no signs of impact to the stream — and certainly none to the Susquehanna (click here for Bill desRosiers’ excellent post on this).

Anyway, much more on this issue as I continue to dig through old SRBC reports and, eventually, find out where the bathrooms are in this place! Glad to finally be joining the team! Don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at


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