Susquehanna River Contaminated, but Not by Fracking Chemicals

The mighty Susquehanna River is 464 miles long, running from upstate New York through Pennsylvania and into Maryland before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. Much of the Susquehanna runs through prime Marcellus drilling country along the way.

Last week, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dropped massive amounts of rain along the Susquehanna and its tributaries, causing some of the worst flooding ever for communities along the path of the river. Some activists who oppose Marcellus Shale gas drilling speculated that fracking chemicals have now found their way, via the floodwaters, into the Susquehanna River. But their concern is misplaced. Fracking chemicals have not fouled the river, but there’s plenty of other things as a result of TS Lee that have:

Noting that well pads and industrial storage sites in the Marcellus Shale region had been inundated, a number of activists raised the possibility of fracking chemicals being a component in the Susquehanna’s toxic cocktail.

Not so, said Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Kevin Sunday: “We have not had any reports of incidents at Marcellus Shale sites as a result of flooding.”

That’s backed up in part by some of the environmentalists themselves.

Members of the Pennsylvania Forest Coalition looked for evidence of any frackwater ponds breached or overflowing or other environmental damage from the flooding, but found very little, coalition coordinator Dick Martin said.

But there remains plenty to be wary of.

Every submerged car and truck in the watershed was percolating gas and diesel.

Every bag of lawn chemicals in every flooded garage seeped downstream.

Every flooded farm yard yielded its muck.

Every failed sewage treatment plant — and there were more than 40 — expelled its slurry into the drink.

Every industrial site scoured by the flood contributed God knows what.

DEP continues to warn people away from contact with the river water.*

*Harrisburg The Patriot-News (Sep 15, 2011) – Receding water leaves behind mess of mosquitoes, waste and nastiness