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Exodus From Shale Drilling Areas Throughout PA

May 12, 2012

Some of the most vital, communicative Pennsylvanians I personally know, from as far west as Butler County and as far northeast as Susquehanna County, are being pushed into an exodus, attempting to move away from beloved homes that have become unbearable due to gas drilling. Others are being pushed out against their will and face homelessness due to corporations only too eager to get a piece of the action, like water privatization giant Aqua America and its subsidiary partners such as Aqua PVR.

This week alone, three shale country residents from three different counties spoke out about their displacement.

Surrounded in Susquehanna

On May 7th, Rebecca Roter of formerly tranquil Susquehanna County reported her own microcosm of this tragedy:

I am going to look to move… I have a rig 3000 feet from my [water] well going up right now. Another pad fracking about one mile north of me…there are 24 permitted wells within about one mile of my house.

I also have the Williams compressor station being built about one mile up my dirt road. It sits above me and that is a real concern for me: all the air emissions that will roll down my valley.

That’s without even mentioning the flaring, the multiple spills, accidents and contamination incidents nearby. Rebecca has been a vital force for documenting, reporting and taking action on behalf of her neighborhood, county and state. For example, she’s assisted a significant network of people in stepping up to testify at compressor station hearings to attempt to prevent severe and sickening air pollution from gas drilling.

When the very people who are most dedicated and courageous are forced out, the loss has a potentially devastating ripple effect. If the “whistleblowers” leave, who speaks up for the quieter folks left behind?

Residents Forced Out so the River can be Sold Out of Riverdale

In central Pennsylvania, those remaining Riverdale residents not already forced to leave face imminent displacement on  June 1st. About 15 families living in Riverdale Mobile Home Village near Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, right by the Susquehanna River, have been told by Aqua America that they must leave, but they have nowhere to go. Residents there have a few things to say about being forced into exodus to make way for a mega-water-withdrawal facility Aqua is building to sell Susquehanna River water to frackers. The Aqua withdrawals appear to be escalating fracking in the Susquehanna River Basin for years to come and certainly guarantee the permanent poisoning of at least 4 billion gallons of Susquehanna River freshwater, and likely much more than that. Aqua’s water withdrawal permit may be renewed by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission indefinitely, and starts at 3 million gallons/day.

Diane Smith, Riverdale resident for 14 years: “This is my home. These are not just structures. They are homes.”

Riverdale resident Kevin June: “You can’t just destroy people’s lives like this.”

Riverdale resident Deb Eck: “They don’t understand. There is no place else for us to go. They’ve already started coming in and staking the ground [for construction] across my driveway. And it’s not just about us, but the environmental impact. There’s wildlife; it’s a beautiful setting, it’s peaceful. That water was not put there to be sold, to be polluted or to be poisoned.”

Butler Blues: Kim McEvoy Speaks Out

In Butler County (western PA), the fracking blues are also intensifying. On Friday, April 27th, residents told me that pictures had fallen off the walls of some homes during fracking operations there. “Five explosions on Friday rattled my windows,” Kim McEvoy told me on May 3rd. Kim’s family and a dozen other families nearby are receiving assistance from Protecting Our Waters’ tiny but vital “Water LOVE” Emergency Fund, but the promised large donation of 2,000 gallons from Wal-Mart (promised to them long ago by PA State Rep Brian Ellis) has not come through yet, so none of the families have water security day to day. Church donations and activists’ assistance is not enough. Kim’s family has been living with contaminated water since January 2011, but that’s not the only problem.
Kim spoke out on May 3rd:

1. Explosions from fracking: “It’s scary. Other residents have been calling Janet McIntyre to describe pictures falling off their walls. There’s no warning, you’ll just be trying to have a conversation and an explosion goes off. It’s almost like there’s no consideration. I don’t make any kind of complaints any more, I feel like I’m wasting my breath.”

2. Foul air: “It’s terrible. It’s not every day; it depends which way the wind blows. You don’t even want to [let your children] go out to play. I live in the country, but it’s like the worst city air, it’s living next to an industrial site. I didn’t ask for it but their attitude is, you have to live with it. It makes my mouth dry, throat dry, and my nose burns.”

3. No safe water: “I don’t even have enough to flush the toilet. I have to take a shower at my neighbor’s but then [my three year old daughter] Skylar’s and my skin breaks out, because there’s chloramine in that water. We haul water every day in one-gallon jugs from my work and my hustband’s work. We haul water.”

4. Kim McEvoy speaks out: “The earth is a living thing. I don’t think people understand what they’re doing: Our water table has all but disappeared after the drillers moved in. I think the technology is completely flawed. Ten years from now people will be scratching their heads saying, ‘we shouldn’t have done that.'”

Kim has a “For Sale” sign up, but no one’s come to look at the property. Susan Phillips also reported Kim’s experience here, on StateImpact, in more detail.

  1. May 14, 2012 2:37 pm

    I’ve talked to quite a few people that are leaving PA and moving to Maryland, New York, or other areas where their families will be protected from the impacts of this industrialization. Add this exodus to the threat to PA’s already sustainable economic engine, tourism and recreation. “The boom provides jobs (mostly to out-of-staters) and brings in revenue (at the loss of other, renewable streams of both jobs and revenue).”

    • June 3, 2012 6:26 pm

      Melissa, your comment gives me concern for families considering a move to Maryland to escape industrial shale gas development. The PA situation you characterize so well is looming here in Mountain Maryland, should gas development be allowed at the end of the study period mandated by our Governor’s Executive Order. Despite threats gas development would pose to our strong tourism- and recreation-based economy (that funds our local tax base), our local legislators, county leadership and local chamber of commerce have drunk the Industry’s kool-aid and are walking into this with eyes wide open. Moving, at least to western Maryland, sadly might be like going from the frying pan into the fire for shale gas refugees. Caveat emptor!


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  4. Action Alert: Hands Across Riverdale May 31-June 1 « Protecting Our Waters

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