“Leave the River in Riverdale!”: Residents and Allies Confront Aqua America
This past week, in a rapidly developing battle to save their intimate community, residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park gathered with their allies outside of Aqua America’s shareholders meeting at the Drexelbrook Banquet Facility in Drexel Hill, PA, on Thursday, May 10th. The Aqua America shareholders who arrived early to their annual meeting were greeted by a score of demonstrators passing out flyers in the bright morning light and chanting “Aqua out of Riverdale, our water’s not for fracking shale!”
After the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) permitted Aqua to build a water withdrawal facility on March 15th this year, families of the Riverdale community – located on the banks of the Susquehanna River in North Central PA – found out they were being evicted with six weeks notice and very little incentive for their move. The SRBC’s permit allows for up to 3 million gallons of water to be withdrawn from the Susquehanna over the next four years – totaling over 4 billion gallons of Pennsylvania’s water to be sold and polluted by the fracking industry.
Lead organizer for the morning’s shareholder education action, Alex Bomstein of Protecting Our Waters, points out that “kicking people, who have nowhere to go, out of their homes to make room for more infrastructure for the very fracking industry that is destroying our Pennsylvania; that’s quite a low blow – and we won’t stop fighting until the industry stops destroying.”
The demonstrators, including Riverdale residents Kevin June and Deb Eck with her two daughters, reached out to educate the shareholders about Aqua’s callous plans before the shareholders entered their meeting to vote on company matters. On the agenda for the meeting was a proposed resolution requesting “the Board of Directors to create a comprehensive policy articulating our company’s respect for and commitment to the human right to water.” Unfortunately, the Aqua Board of Directors strongly recommended that the shareholders vote down the resolution. The citizens protesting outside the meeting, meanwhile, reminded shareholders that clean water is a human right, as is the right to one’s home and community.
Concerned Montgomery County resident and activist Tamara Clements cut to the heart of this personal issue when she passionately questioned, “how can I trust this company to provide me and my family with clean water when they are selling dirty water behind our backs?”
A press conference followed the outreach action, at which Kevin June spoke passionately of his neighbors and community. After explaining that the $2,500 incentive Aqua is offering residents to move will be taken away after June 1st, June explained that “the [residents] who are left, we don’t care, because this is just the beginning of our fight.” He then declared that along with others in the Park he is willing to go to court in order to stand their ground. “This is a fight that we’ve never fought before,”June continued, “but it’s one that needs to happen.”
Later, June tenderly mentioned some of the individuals he is fighting for; he specifically mentioned Doris Fravel, an elderly lady who had called the park home for some 38 years and was an avid gardner that took pride in ensuring her lawn was always pristinely manicured. Unfortunately, because of the fear of the pressure applied by Aqua, Fravel’s daughter relocated her mother to a small apartment in a nursing home, abandoning the garden she once cared for so deeply. June is determined to fight Aqua and return Fravel and those just like her back to their proper homes where they can all live comfortably.
With Aqua planning on beginning construction at Riverdale on June 1, the time to act is now.
After the press conference, the residents of Riverdale decided to visit the home of Aqua America CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis just minutes from the morning’s action in Ardmore, PA. Kevin June, Deb Eck and her daughters left a message of their unwavering strength behind on the gates outside his home. The protest sign pictured vibrant homes and declared “Justice for the 32 Families.”