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Fracking industry threatens Pa. mobile home village

Published Apr 7, 2012 10:23 AM

Longtime residents of the 32-unit Riverdale Mobile Home Village in Jersey Shore, Pa., read in the Feb. 18 Williamsport, Pa., Sun-Gazette that their leases were being terminated “immediately” and they would have to move by April 1.

Their park had been sold to Aqua PVR LLC, a subsidiary of Aqua America based in Bryn Mawr, Pa. The company plans to tear down the park to build a water pumping facility for use in gas drilling called fracking.

The Lycoming County Planning Commission approved the company’s plans for the pump station in mid-February. On March 15, Aqua PVR LLC received permission from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to withdraw up to 3 million gallons of water per day from the site, located on the banks of the Susquehanna River. According to the park’s owner the park’s destruction hinged on the planning commission’s approval.

Interviewed in the March 18 Sun Gazette, Protecting Our Waters Director Iris Marie Bloom said, “New York, Maryland, and the Delaware River Basin, where Aqua is based, have each imposed a moratorium” on drilling. “The Susquehanna River Basin Commission, in contrast, is giving out multi-billion gallon water withdrawal permits with no examination of cumulative consequences to water, air, land, climate, or human health.”

Bloom noted, “High-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, injects chemical-laced water underground at high pressure — a process with a confirmed current casing failure rate of 6.2 percent in Pennsylvania. Environmental violations occur at a rate of 12 per day at Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites in Pennsylvania.

“The water returns to the surface bearing toxic chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive materials and volatile organic chemicals, which is why it is often trucked away to be re-injected underground, causing a number of earthquakes. No cumulative impact study regarding the life-cycle impacts of fracking has been conducted anywhere in Pennsylvania.”

An explosion at a natural gas compressor station near Allentown, Pa. took place March 29.

Adding insult to the injury of the too-short notice, Riverdale residents were offered an “incentive” payment of $2,500 if they were out by April 1 or $1,500 if they left by May 1. In the same Sun Gazette article, ten-year resident Deb Eck said, “Mobile home movers have put the cost of moving the trailers at between $5,000 and $12,000. Even if many residents could move, they have nowhere to go.”

Many of the residents are elderly and/or live on fixed income. They have lived in Riverdale Park for years in older trailers that won’t be accepted in newer mobile home developments. They question why Aqua America could not find another location on the Susquehanna River to set up their pumping station.

Residents won’t go quietly

On March 28 Riverdale residents held a town meeting where they demanded that Aqua America compensate all 32 families for the full costs of moving or allow them to remain in their homes without disrupting their lives with the pumping station.

Nathan Sooy, from the environmental group Clean Water Action, noted that Aqua America “will make hundreds of thousands of dollars off this deal. They can afford to give just compensation.” Sooy suggested taking residents’ demands to the company’s headquarters.

Under growing public pressure, the company extended the deadline to June 1. Some residents said they absolutely cannot afford to move and that they won’t leave at all.