Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes
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History is an important aspect of what’s going on in Greene County. Dufalla understands his county’s place in the economic growth of America. “In the 1800s, oil and gas were removed from the state and especially Greene County with no regard for the impacts the ‘rush’ had on the environment or on the health and safety of the people,” he told the area’s political leaders. “In the early 1900s came the coal boom era, which brought with it varying degrees of stream and air pollution.” He then discussed the Marcellus gas boom with hopefulness that if done safely the economic benefits could very much improve the standard of living in the county, only it should not come in lieu of the health of the people or the land.
Greene County is rich in resources, but despite being at the forefront of energy extraction for over 100 years, it is not a wealthy county. It does not boast the best schools and as of the last census in 2010 the population of 38,686 nearly matched the median household income of $40,498. Somewhere along the line, people who have used this county’s earth made their money and moved on, leaving behind abandoned mines (approximately 1,200 in southwest Pennsylvania and West Virginia), and with them the highly acidic, orange-colored discharges (acid mine drainage) that flow into the region’s creeks and streams. Dufalla doesn’t want to see something similar happen with the oil and gas industry, where area residents are once more left to deal with the leftover waste of long-departed companies.
Izaak Walton’s numbers in Dufalla’s chapter have steadily been on the rise as others have joined who want to lend a hand in stopping the water pollution. In January 2010 the membership at the Harry Enstrom chapter sat at 26; today there are 127 members.
A newer feature is the Citizen’s Water Monitoring program, which has residents who live next to streams take water samples and get personally involved. “We had a certified hydro biologist come in and we trained these citizens with a six-hour course on how to take water samples— how to read and report them. We basically developed an early warning system,” says Dufalla.
Dufalla also writes a weekly column titled “Nature’s Corner,” for the Greene County Messenger, where he often publishes the Izaak Walton water data for the local community. The level of pollutants running through the Monongahela watershed is consistently over the standard. Robert Allan Shipman is part of a much bigger problem.
The county seat of Waynesburg is a small college town still holding onto a walking Main Street and a downtown shopping district that runs a few stoplights. All summer, streamers have been hanging from above merchants’ doorways wishing local Olympian, wrestler Coleman Scott, best in London. Set in the middle of town is the Greene County Courthouse. There, at the stoplight of High Street and Washington, a red light forces a line of trucks to idle; gas trucks, water trucks, residual waste trucks, they are now an ever-present sight since the gas companies began fracking in the Marcellus shale, and as the light turns green, the parade of them thunder off down the road. Walk into downtown shops and ask about Allan Shipman and they’ll tell you they knew about it all along. They’d heard about the trucks near the streams. They’d heard about Morris Run and how dozens of Shipman trucks a day would line up and battle to unload waste.
“Citizens are tired of the trucks,” says Greene County Sheriff Richard Ketchem.