The Water and the Wine: Five Minutes to Speak to Pennsylvania’s Inergy-Soaked Frack-Tastrophe

In the effort to come to grips with the tsunami that is hydraulic fracturing, it’s multiplying associated industries, its immediate and future consequences, and the almost overwhelming sense of urgency that attends every new report of another well, another compressor station, another water withdrawal, another water impoundment, another, permit to take frack “cake” at a landfill, another drilling mud spill, another compressor station explosion, another report of high ozone, another potential connection to a neurological illness, another connection to cancer…I sometimes find myself nearly screaming.

Such was the case yesterday at the Seneca Lake Big Splash–an awesome environmentally oriented concert, food, and wine fundraiser for the anti-fracking and anti-LPG movement held at the Hector Fairgrounds in Hector, New York–just a couple of hours and a world away from my own house in Bloomsburg, Fracksylvania.

Photo by Wendy Lee at the Seneca Lake Big Splash event.

As is my wont, I took lots of pictures–especially of hoola-hooping, giggling, dancy-pantsy kids oblivious to a future that may look a bit more like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road than the big splash of sunlight and laughter that colored this gorgeous day. Indeed, this day was so lovely, the weather so charmed, the people so neighborly that you could almost forget that an absolute shit-storm is hovering just over the border in Pennsylvania. You could all but ignore the fact that if New Yorkers don’t barricade the walls of their barely-standing moratorium, there won’t be any more Big Splashes. Or at least they won’t feel nearly so cheery, and what may be splashing won’t be sunlight and vino so much as righteous anger over the environmental and health catastrophe that is spelled FRACKING. I am tempted here to a very disturbing image of something bubbly–but it ain’t champaigne, and terms like “methane” don’t really even sound like tasty vino ingredients.

Ah, but the Big Splash! The music was wonderful, the food great, the people young and old and beautiful. I’m sure the wine was phenomenal–I just wasn’t in much of a drinking mood. I was actually having trouble keeping my camera steady. I felt like screaming.

I hadn’t gone to the Big Splash thinking that I was going to get to stand in front of a microphone and tell a few New Yorkers waiting for the reggae band to come on about the disaster that was happening to us here in Pennsylvania. But when that opportunity came–and especially given that Governor Cuomo may be just about to let the fracking camel in under the Southern Tier tent–you know, just to profiteer off a few apparent sacrificeable towns lucky enough to be on Seneca Lake–I started to wonder just how much I could pack into my five precious minutes.

But the prospect of just five minutes has a way of making things pretty simple, and when the time came, all I could really think about was, well, the water and the wine.

World’s End State Park family swimming area near the Loyalsock Creek.

First, the water: Earlier in the day my partner and I had taken a little detour through a corner of World’s End State Park to see whether reports of an Inergy “natural gas operation” “sludge discharge” into Loyalsock Creek were true. At first we were relieved. The family swimming area, and the creek just below it seemed clear and sparkly–just as they should be. If this isn’t “the water,” I don’t know what is.

We got back into my anti-fracking-stickered Honda, and began to make our way to Hector when my eagle-eyed squeeze spotted what can only be described as something like a scene out of the Franco Zeffirelli movie, The Ten Commandments–you know, the scene where the ancient hand of God makes its creeping way through the city to put to death all the first born sons. Except that there was nothing funny or cheesy about what we saw. Just horrifying. And that can only be described as something not like water at all, but more like a thick, filmy, green seeping, sucking, suffocating mud.

 

Loyalsock Creek near Inergy Pipeline accident.  Photo by Wendy Lee

This is a difference of not more than a mile or so–“water” moving downstream towards the family swimming area at World’s End–an irony that ought not to be lost on anyone. Though the world may not be ending, world may very well be. Nothing living can survive very much of this. Still, in the interest of insuring that absolutely nothing get in the way of profits-profits-profits, here’s pretty much all this difference got in the closest relevant newspaper, The Williamsport Sun-Gazette (of the famed, “let’s ignore the plight of the people at Riverdale unless the residents get violent cuz that’s when poor people are interesting): “Sludge discharged into creek during pipeline construction.” A natural gas operations crew was making an “open trench cut” near the stream for the Marc I Pipeline Project–a crew for Inergy Midstream LP. Department of Environmental Protection Spokesperson John Erich said that “best practice management failed.”

I’ll say it did. If this is what a best practice management failure looks like, I wonder what a complete disaster would be. But maybe we can use our imaginations here without much of a stretch. Add some dead belly-up brown spotted and feminized male fish, or some greasy-looking dead flora, or some methane bubbles, or somebody’s kid swimming a mile away getting really sick. “[N]o advisories were issued swimmers or campers at the park.” And, according to our special friends at Energy In Depth, “Labor Day is a Little Brighter thanks to Shale Development.”

Water in the Loyalsock Creek near the Inergy Pipeline accident. Photo by Wendy Lee

Wow. If this is brighter, I wonder what darker looks like! Inergy. The same folks who work tirelessly to insure that the seismic history of the salt caverns at Seneca Lake remain proprietary trade secrets. No kidding. These are the same folks who’d convert those caverns into an LPG facility with much of the infrastructure, traffic, potential for toxic accident, explosion, and pollution as fracking.

And this brings me to the wine: as I approached the mic for my five minutes at The Big Splash, I realized that what I needed to say really was pretty simple: Our fracking here in Pa, Inc, is your potential fracking and LPG in New York’s Southern Tier. For a  nice straight-forward look at the feelings of at least many of the residents of Hector/Watkin’s Glen, we need look only back to the protest of August 22nd:

Moreover, it doesn’t really matter whether Inergy has an accident at its Seneca lake facility or not. The mere perception that water necessary for growing wine grapes just might be tainted with the pollutants involved in liquid Petroleum Gas is quite enough to kill an economy dependent on the making, the celebrating, the tasting, the touristing of wine. “Make Wine, Not Brine,” reads a bumper sticker.

But it’s far more than the economy of the Souther Tier that’s at risk. It’s the necessary conditions of life.

Scroll back up to that dancey-pancey little girl and her hoola-hoop–and imagine her with a neurological disorder caused by exposure to frack toxins. Our Inergy-Monster is your Inergy-Monster. Our MARC I pipeline is Your MARC I pipeline. And if you need even a moment more worth of convincing, perhaps a gander at the skeletal structure of a brand new compressor station will do the trick. This one sits at the top of what used to be a hill–a hill: an ecological system rife with life and the necessary conditions of life. This one is the subject of a series of photo-documentary that I wished I had begun even sooner. The five photographs at the end of the article will give you an idea.

Compressor Station Construction Project and MARC I pipeline, Janet Hock Road, Davidson Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania–about two hours from The Big Splash–and only and hour and a half from the New York Border.

Photo by Wendy Lee

Look at this last photo in the series–the one that resembles a bomb, the one you can imagine a little man riding on in some anti-war spoof flick. In truth, it is a bomb–an explosive of the worst possible sort because it’s the pipe-bomb that’s going to be buried under layers and layers of cosmetic flora and fauna designed to make us forget that there are miles and miles of pipeline reaching its bony hand-of-god fingers out to eventually arrive at Dominion’s Cove Point, Maryland Liquid Natural gas Export Facility–and then out to the global “free” market–converting the water forever destroyed by fracking, lake pollution, and creek destruction into the wine of genocidal profiteering.

But let’s get back to The Big Splash.I can’t afford to think that it’s too late for New Yorker’s to force the fracking-monster back into its bottle–because if it’s too late for New York, it’s too late for the world I love: rural Pennsylvania–with its glorious World Ends, its Loyalsocks, its Rock Runs.

And I cannot–who can?–believe it’s too late for this little “cracker cruncher” (it’s printed on his coveralls) rockin’ out to the reggae band that came on after my five minutes of screaming. He deserves a future. I demand he have it. And you know what else? It’s not good enough that all he gets to have is clean water. I demand he get to have wine.

Photographs below are from the Loyalsock Creek and the Compressor Station Construction Project and MARC I pipeline

 


“See: http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/582839/Sludge-discharged-into-creek-during-pipeline-construction.html?nav=5175”

From Inergy, LP: Natural Gas Operations Discharge into the Loyalsock, posted by Wendy Lynne Lee on 9/03/2012 (18 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher


 

____________________
Wendy Lynne Lee | Professor of Philosophy, Bloomsburg University

13 Comments on The Water and the Wine: Five Minutes to Speak to Pennsylvania’s Inergy-Soaked Frack-Tastrophe

  1. Good piece! Just curious – was there evidence of a fish kill? If so, did you take photos of the dead fish? Did you notify the PA Fish Commission? Seems like that might the govt group who might be able to push the issue faster. If the water was poisoned, then the fish will die pretty quickly and that agency can act. Just a thought! Thanks for writing/photographing this article!

    • I don’t know of any evidence of fish kill yet–but this cannot happen very many times over without that as a consequence–and this is true whether or not any toxic chemical content shows up in a DEP water sample…the fish will suffocate along with all kinds of other life in the creek…

  2. How close was this to Forksville? doesn’t the stream run from Forksville to Worlds end? or am I mistaken?

    Also any photos of the source of the spill? I wanted to see what the stream crossing looks like where this occurred

  3. Thank You for taking the time to write this article, and post the photos. I was just in the Loyalsock Creek with my son, our friends son, my niece and nephew this summer. I grew up swimming on the Loyalsock Creek. I now live in the Adirondacks of Upstate NY, and I feel completely heart-broken every time I visit my home state. This really brings tears to my eye. I HATE what the gas industry has done to PA, what Gov. Corbett has allowed to happen, and the fact that I will never again be able to share this beautiful place with my son, knowing that it’s a toxic waste site for the extraction of Natural Gas. It’s a sad day for me, for all residents of the beautiful state of Pennsylvania, and for the future of what was a pristine place on this planet. I hope ALL those who support the drilling of Natural Gas can reflect on their choice, and move toward reversing the decision to move forward, it will NEVER EVER EVER be worth what we had!!!!!!!!!!SO SORRY TO SEE THIS!!!!!!

    • HI Rachael–and thank you so much for writing. I moved to rural PA 20 years ago with my kids and a new job at Bloomsburg University…I love love love this place. Now when I head out to camp, or hike, or run (and I run pretty seriously) I wonder what trucks I’ll have to see, what roads will be torn up a little more today, how low the Susquehanna River is, how polluted–and this unfolding tragedy at Loyalsock is but a stone’s throw away from one of the most beautiful camping sites I have ever had the pleasure of setting up a tent–Rock Run.

  4. Wendy – this is such a strong piece and I thank you for doing such an excellent job. We all are fighting hard to stop this tragedy from going full force in NY state. Watching the destruction of our neighboring states of Ohio and Pennsylvania is just heart breaking.

    I’d urge everyone who reads this to share it … and send it to President Obama too. He needs to be persuaded that this direction is wrong, DEAD wrong for this country!

  5. Thank you Barbara–these comments are very kind. If this piece makes a difference–if it can help to galvanize the movements against fracking/LPG in both of our states, I am VERY glad indeed.

  6. I received this message from an email posting about this from State Rep Garth Everett (someone forwarded my email about this to him)

    You should have seen the sediment in that creek during Irene & Lee. What seemed to be irreparable damage done to the creek by these storms from one end to the other – a year later – doesn’t look nearly as bad and the ecosystem is healing. This is nothing compared to that.

    This type thing happens once in awhile during road construction, logging and any other kind of earth disturbance despite the use of erosion and sedimentation control measures. This incident has been reported to DEP and will be investigated and dealt with.

    I have been on the Loyalsock Creek my whole life and seen it run crystal clear one minute and then turn chocolate brown a few hours later because of a heavy rainstorm upstream – next day turbid – next day clear again. This pipeline will be completed, re-seeded and green by the spring of next year – I understand it will be a great place for wildlife to feed. Come back up next summer on vacation and check it out.

    Garth

    Garth Everett, State Representative
    84th Legislative District
    Harrisburg Office: (717) 787-5270
    District Office: (570) 546-2084

    • I believe my response to Mike Knapp of MDS Energy posted at State Impact (http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2012/09/05/pipeline-construction-spill-caught-on-camera/#more-12448) will suffice here:

      Dear Mr. Knapp:

      First, I’d like you to know that I was with Mr. Marshall this past Sunday (9.2.12) when he carefully film-documented the sludge making its way down Loyalsock Creek. Moreover, I shot the enclosed set of photographs. To be very clear, these pictures have not been altered in any way. This is precisely what the camera captured in several different locations along several miles of Loyalsock Creek beginning about one mile upstream from the family swimming area at World’s End State Park, and as Mr. Marshall points out, three days after the initial DEP investigation. As you can plainly see, what’s in this water bears little resemblance to the mud stirred up by any naturally occurring event. For contrast, please consult the very last photograph in the series. This is what Loyalsock Creek SHOULD look like, and the rest of the set is what it DID look like on the morning of 9.2.12. Now let us discuss Bentonite:

      Fact: For (at least) human beings: “Inhalation: Breathing prolonged and excessive amounts of Bentonite dust may not cause noticeable injury or illness even though permanent lung damage may be occurring. Inhalation of dust may have the following serious chronic health effects: Pneumoconiosis: Excessive inhalation of respirable dust may cause pneumonoconiosis, a respiratory disease, which can result in delayed, progressive, disabling and sometimes fatal lung injury. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, non-specific chest illness and reduced pulmonary function. This disease is exacerbated by smoking. Individuals with pneumoconiosis are predisposed to develop tuberculosis” (http://www.hamgil.com/assets/documents/msds_bentonite.pdf).

      For (at least) aquatic life: “Bentonite is non-toxic, but there are two specific indirect effects of bentonite on aquatic life. Initially, the suspended bentonite may inhibit respiration of fishes, although this is typically short-lived. Once the bentonite settles, secondary long-term effects can result. For example, egg masses of fish could be covered by a layer of bentonite inhibiting the flow of dissolved oxygen to the egg masses. Secondly, benthonic invertebrates and/or the larval stages of pelagic organisms may be covered and suffocate due to fouled gills and/or lack of oxygen” (http://www.slc.ca.gov/division_pages/DEPM/DEPM_Programs_and_Reports/ATT_Fiber_Optic/PDF/Appendices/Ap-I_HDD_Plan.pdf).

      A bentonite spill in Georges Creek, Springhill Township resulted in the suspension of drilling because of the potential effects on aquatic life in the creek from the exposure to bentonite. “If enough bentonite dissolves in the creek, Coptis [Mountain Watershed Association] said, it could adversely affect the creek’s aquatic habitat. She said bentonite can harm aquatic life by coating the stream bed and clogging the gills of fish” (http://www.heraldstandard.com/news/local_news/state-investigating-spill-in-georges-creek/article_9d2cb962-e170-5434-9e22-3afa9c8091c3.html?TNNoMobile).

      An industry known for blunders like those described by Mr. Marshall–blunders that should clearly never occur: “They were making an open trench cut thru the stream and neglected to build a temp. dam to catch and suck out sediment,” indicate further evidence of the arrogance and contempt with which industry representatives hold their responsibilities to the environment and to both human and nonhuman health. That DEP’s response is a consistent and wholly predictable “we saw nothing” despite plain evidence demonstrates only that this agency cannot be entrusted to enforce its own laws and policies–much less err on the side of protecting life and health. Mr. Marshall’s concerns are clearly not overstated–especially when we consider this incident in its proper context, namely, that it is overwhelmingly likely given the timeline that far more bentonite–and whatever else may have been in this sludge–has made its way into the creek that Inergy acknowledges, that in light of Anadarko’s plans to drill in “large swaths” of Loyalsock State Forest we can expect only more of the negligence evidenced in this incident and DEP’s failure to investigate it in anything like a timely, thorough, or adequate fashion. This sludge dump is simply more of the same that we have come to expect from the hydraulic fracturing industry and its associated enterprises. What, however, is more horrifying is the complicity which characterizes the Department of Environmental Protection’s response–or failure to respond–to this systematic erosion of our water, air, and land.
      Recommended reading:
      http://ragingchickenpress.org/2012/09/03/the-water-and-the-wine-five-minutes-to-speak-to-pennsylvanias-inergy-soaked-frack-tastrophe/.

      Sincerely,

      Wendy Lynne Lee

      * Note: Look at the photographs, Mr. Everett–the color is clearly NOT brown.

  7. Mr Garth Everett,
    Thank you so much for your condescending Pro-Industry Propaganda. Do you actually believe a majority of YOUR constituents are a class of dim-wits who will be impressed by your title and accept your flimsy explaination? Hopefully you have just effectively Ended your Political Career by standing up for a gross polluter and against the peoples interests! We are becoming much wiser and better informed now-a-days Sir, and the litany of excuses,evasions, and denials from our Public SERVANTS will only serve to convince many more folks to reject you,your Official Statements, and simplistic, “Think of the jobs” rhetoric! The Energy Extraction Industry has deep pockets and immense power, but We the People refuse to stand by while our Health, Safety, and way of life is bought,sold, and erroded more every day. The time has come to expose those who would threaten our lives for Profit and Power. Good luck at the polls!

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