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



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

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Wendy Lynne Lee | Professor of Philosophy, Bloomsburg University

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