One man's dedication to cleaning up litter along the river offers example of how to make a difference in 2022
Every time Doug Fessler goes fishing on the Susquehanna River near Sunbury, he first takes time to clean up any litter he finds along the banks.
“I always leave a device to pick up litter, a garbage bag and gloves in my car, and each time my son and I go fishing, I make sure to clean up the banks first,” he said. “When you do that, and then catch a fish, there’s a deeper meaning to it. It’s almost like the river is rewarding you. There is a different sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with it versus just going down catching a fish and walking away.”
Fessler has pulled countless bags of trash from the river’s edge over the past year as more and more people turn to our natural resources for refuge from the pandemic and their hectic lifestyles.
Moments after turning on the tap at the kitchen sink of a home in the Strawberry Ridge region of Montour County recently, I was overwhelmed with a pungent, noxious odor that went beyond the typical rotten egg smell of water harboring too much sulfur.
My eyes began to water and I fought an instant gag reflex.
“I’m so sorry, but now you see what I’m up against,” apologized the young homeowner standing nearby. “It has gotten so bad that I take my showers at work. I don’t even let my dogs drink this water. Something has to change because I can’t keep living like this.”
Riverkeeper's note: This is the second of a two-part package looking at under-river gas extraction leases. It is a first-hand commentary by Riverkeeper John Zaktansky in response to the initial report, available here.
On January 22, 1959, coal miners in Luzerne County illegally dug under the Susquehanna River, so close to the river’s wall that it collapsed, causing a watery whirlpool that flooded the mine shafts and killed 12.
Decades later, some historians consider the Knox Mine Disaster the death knell for coal mining in Northeast Pennsylvania, and we are still seeing impacts of abandoned mine drainage issues that can be traced back to that specific event.
At the very least, the disaster provides an important environmental cautionary tale, one that immediately came to mind as I opened a Google Alert that took me to a tiny one-sentence “press release” on the fracking industry website marcellusdrilling.com in late November.
Fracking companies extracting gas from under river, other waterways since 2010 via state lease program
Riverkeeper's note: This is the first of a two-part report from the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association. Click here for the second piece, a commentary response from Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper John Zaktansky.
In the Nov. 20, 2021, issue of the online Pennsylvania Bulletin, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced the execution of an oil and gas lease for publicly owned streambeds in Wyoming County with BKV Operating, LLC.
According to the short release, the lease was effective as of March 15, 2021, and included the leasing of 198.5 acres of “submerged lands” along the Susquehanna River streambed in Mehoopany and Washington townships.
The lease allows “the development of oil and natural gas below and between the ordinary low water marks of the Susquehanna River solely by means of directional, including horizontal, drilling on a nondevelopment basis that will not disturb the river or its bed.”
The newly published "Sentinels of the Susquehanna" paperback by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, along with the first annual CD from the Songs of the Susquehanna project are now available for purchase at two local bookstores: Mondragon Books at 111 Market Street, Lewisburg, and Otto Book Store at 107 W 4th St., Williamsport.
In partnership with the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) out of Dickinson College, the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association is looking for volunteers in Lycoming and Clinton counties to join a new Stream Team monitoring effort in 2022.
Several dates have been set for those who wish to participate in the Lycoming/Clinton Stream Team effort, including a virtual information session from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8, an equipment pickup on Monday, Feb. 28, and an online training workshop from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22.
Among the many activities Elizabeth Bruner remembers from attending a five-day Wildlife Leadership Academy camp near State College, she located a transmitter using radio telemetry – a way of tracking whitetail deer and other species.
“It was like I was a biologist conducting research!” she said. “I really loved that sort of hands-on learning, including time at a shooting range, collecting plants and assessing wildlife habitats. This program has fueled my passion for conservation and has given me the knowledge and resources to make a difference.”
Available now: Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper book includes 50-plus stories about wide range of issues
"Sentinels of the Susquehanna: Volume 1" is a 285-page book featuring more than 50 stories that highlight a wide variety of issues facing our river-based resources and some of the people who strive to protect and promote those resources.
The book, produced by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association, includes some of the most popular blog articles and investigative reports on topics such as abandoned mine drainage, microplastics in our waterways, fracking concerns, invasive species, erosion, impacts of high and low water on aquatic ecosystems and much more.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.