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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Disasters: Knox and Fracking

Fifty-two years ago today, corporate greed and a willingness to place short-term profits ahead of both the well-being of people and sound business practice resulted in one of the greatest man-made disasters Northeastern Pennsylvania has ever known:  the Knox Mine Disaster.  "Only" twelve people died, but the entire subsurface coal mining industry in Northeastern Pennsylvania also died that day, as water from the Susquehanna River broke through and flooded the River Slope Mine and all connected mines.

undergroundminers.com: Knox Mine Disaster
Historical Markers: Knox Mine Disaster
PA GenWeb: Knox Mine Disaster
Knox Mine disaster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Last year, in another part of the Susquehanna, methane bubbles began to emerge as a result of nearby gas extraction activity:

Susquehanna River Sentinel: 126 Days, 10 hours and counting...

The coal mining industry presented a temporary boon to this area.  The people who worked the mines never became rich as a result; the areas that were mined were left permanently scarred, with culm banks, mine fires, mine subsidences, and poisoned creeks and streams as lasting reminders.  Now a new industry has moved into this area with promises of short term payoffs - as long as you ignore the long-term consequences.

A few months ago, as I waited for an opportunity to speak with our Representative in Congress at a blogger-politician mixer, I chatted briefly with one of his top aides.  She asked me what I saw as the most important issues locally, and I brought up the issues of fracking - natural gas extraction by way of hydraulic fracturing of the entombing layers of rock - and its lasting effects on the environment, including contaminated drinking water wells, dumping of fracking chemicals onto roadways and into watersheds, and the long-term effects of gas migration through previously impermeable geological strata.  Bringing up the issue of the methane bubbles, I said "We've broken the Susquehanna!"  And she immediately responded "But we can fix it!"

I never did get a chance to find out how, and I don't think I ever will.  That Representative lost his race, and with the upcoming redistricting, even his old district may disappear, too.  The new Representative has a poor track record on environmental issues - one of his major accomplishments as mayor of a local city was importing tons of toxic river sludge that had been rejected by other municipalities to be used as fill.  A few bubbles in the Susquehanna probably won't bother him, even if they portend a disaster that will dwarf Knox in scope.

1 comment:

Don Williams said...

DB - Sure they can fix it...and I, my blooging brother, can fly.