Waterkeeper Alliance

November 17, 2016

Say No to Pipelines


When Waterkeepers gather from all over the world each year for our annual conference, most recently last June in Wilmington, North Carolina, you’ll hear story after story of their deep connections to water, going back in almost every case, to their childhoods.  There is a palpable buzz of energy in each story.  I have my own childhood connection to water; unfortunately, I recently was reminded of that connection after the fossil fuel industry claimed it as another victim.

I grew up in the Susquehanna River watershed in Pennsylvania. I could walk outside my back door and walk for days.  When I was a boy I had a Golden Retriever named Ben.  Ben and I swam and fished in creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes from May to October.  We swam after school, on weekends, and throughout the summer. We didn’t need it to be very warm, we just wanted to play and swim in the water. Being in, on, and around water was freedom and happiness.

Most of the time, Ben and I swam and fished in Loyalsock Creek, a 64-mile long tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.  The creek’s cool waters were teeming with trout that hid near magnificent boulders and maneuvered through the waterway’s rushing rapids and deep pools.  After we fished and swam, I sat on the hot rocks and watched Ben try to catch crayfish in small warm pools of water.

Unfortunately, on October 21, 2016, localized heavy rains and resultant landslides ruptured a gas pipeline, which
 spilled a “reported” 55,000 gallons into Wallis Run, at its confluence to Loyalsock Creek, just 5 miles upstream from where Ben and I spent so many years swimming and fishing.  Like many fossil fuel disasters, it is believed that the spill exceeds 55,000 gallons.  This wasn’t the first time this aging piece of infrastructure - originally constructed in 1937 -- has had problems; in fact, sections of pipe in the area that ruptured have been repaired twice in the past 25 years. This recent storm event unearthed at least ten areas along this 10-mile section of pipeline and multiple repairs are underway.

Despite the sadness I feel for the great waterway of my youth, I am thankful to Carol Parenzan, Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper, for being there and fighting for Loyalsock Creek.  Our Waterkeepers and our team at Waterkeeper Alliance have dealt with more pipeline spills in the last year than ever before in our history (e.g, Ventura, California; Cushing, Oklahoma; Loyalsock Creek, Pennsylvania; and Shelby County, Alabama).

One key thing we know:  because pipeline operators cannot safely maintain existing pipelines without spills, fires and fatal explosions, we shouldn't build new pipelines like the Dakota Access Pipeline, Constitution Pipeline, or any other pipelines that would carry dirty fossil fuels through our communities and our water supplies.  More than that, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground in order to protect water quality, address climate change, and save the lives of future generations.

To clean water,