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Is Binghamton’s Water at Risk?

Eleven bridges span the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers in Binghamton, NY, carrying cars, trains, and pedestrians back and forth. The city of 47,000 grew in the valley at the confluence of these two rivers, and the population there depends on the Susquehanna for its public water supply. Is the drinking water these New Yorkers depend on at risk of contamination from high-volume, horizontal fracking accidents—even though the practice is still under moratorium in New York State?

The short answer is “yes.”

The reason for this is the fact that the Susquehanna doesn’t observe state boundaries, but flows south from New York, dipping down into Pennsylvania, then back up northward into New York. And over the past four years, 98 unconventional wells, including 86 horizontally fracked gas wells have been drilled within the watershed that flows into the Susquehanna where it loops down into Pennsylvania. See the map below, to get a visualization (the yellow arrows illustrate the flow of the Susquehanna; the neon-violet arrows illustrate the flow of streams and creeks in the frack zone):

Is this newsworthy?

Blogger Bill Huston thinks so. Problem is, none of the news outlets in Binghamton agree with him. For the past two weeks he has been trying to get this message out to the locals through TV, radio and print outlets, but has been told by reporters there that the situation isn’t newsworthy until the city’s water actually becomes contaminated. Then, it’s a story.

I think it’s a story right now. Huston arrived at his concerns thanks to Bret Jennings, who is a councilor for Great Bend Borough, PA.

Jennings is concerned that the water flowing down the Susquehanna from his town toward Binghamton could be at risk. In an email to Artvoice, he explains it this way: “An area above the water intake for the city of Binghamton, there have been reports/complaints of black water made to DEP water quality, DEP Oil & Gas, and the Hallstead Great Bend Joint Sewer Authority.  This area is only 13 miles from the Binghamton water intake.” It takes just five hours for the river water to make the trip from Great Bend to Binghamton.

So Great Bend residents have recently had black water coming from their water wells, and there’s concern as to whether Great Bend’s water treatment system is capable of handling the mysterious stuff before it’s sent along downstream—which means up to New York.

Pro-frackers spend a lot of time talking about “acceptable levels” of risk. Is this situation an acceptable risk to the 50,000 New Yorkers who drink from the tap in Binghamton? Presently, there’s no way to tell, because the media in Binghamton won’t even let the public know that such conditions exists.

Today, Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan told Artvoice that he’s been made aware of the situation and intends to visit Great Bend next week with a team to help assess the risk his city is facing. “We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation like Pittsburgh,” he said.

We know that if fracking is to get the go-ahead in New York State, it is to be banned anywhere within the New York City watershed, to protect that city’s drinking water. For the city of Binghamton, and other New York towns downstream from the Pennsylvania frack-zone through which the Susquehanna flows, such a ban is not an option.

For more on this, visit Bill Huston’s Blog.



  • From the 47,000 residents of the City of Binghamton, I say:
    God Bless You, Buck Quigley!

  • msfinn123

    Thanks, Regarding other ways the Susquehanna is
    being polluted, don’t forget that the Tioga River runs North into NYS at
    Painted Post to join the Cohocton to form the Chemung; which is a major
    tributary to the Susquehanna where it joins  somewhere close to the
    border of Chemung county and Tioga county (ny Tioga County), the Chemung hugs the
    border of NY and PA dipping down into PA a couple times close to where it joins the Susquehanna (think of all the tributory creeks).  NOW the Tioga
    River has it’s source in Bradford County and runs all the way through
    Tioga county (PA Tioga County), both major frack counties, as you
    know… Just to point out another way the Susquehanna, and the whole
    River basin is fracked. 

    To further add to the evidence that we
    are already being fracked in NY, the Canisteo river, which joins the
    Tioga River five miles south of Painted Post
    (where it joins the Cohocton to form the Chemung), is being impacted by
    land pollution near Cameron NY.  Dickson and sons have been pouring
    sewage sludge on the land for decades (?), now it’s being mixed with
    frack flowback too!  OH and Steuben County is allowing leachate
    (spelling? fluid that seeps from waste) from different waste facilities
    in NYS that accept drill cuttings and flowback mixtures.  This is being
    “cleaned” and poured into the Cohocton! again to add to the Susquehanna
    down river(s).  Sigh.  

  • Rachel Treichler

    Thanks for reporting on this important situation.  As the person below states, this is a concern with the Tioga River flowing north to Painted Post, Corning and downriver to Elmira too.

  • Interesting piece, Buck.  As someone who grew up in the Town (contiguous to City) of Binghamton and graduated from Susquehanna Valley HS, this hits close to (what used to be) home.  I would only note that it affects more than the 47,000 in the City of Binghamton.  Like our area where the central city makes up an increasingly smaller proportion of the area’s population, Binghamton is just one municipality in a county of 200,000.  The adjacent Town of Union already has a greater population (56,000) than the the city. 

  • This is great reporting of really disturbing information.     Kudos to Bill Huston, Mayor Ryan, and the Pennsylvania import author.    I hope President Obama, Governor Cuomo and Senator Grisanti read this.

  • LOL is this a joke, you’re worried about frac fluid which is 100% recycled and in a closed loop system.  Do you know how much raw sewage is pumped into the river.  That should be your real concern. The only way the river is affected by hydraulic fracturing is that water is taken out, nothing is dumped into it as this article describes.  Good reporting Bill lol. 

    Here is a video of Bill Huston and his demeanor, you tell me if this looks like a credible source of information.  There is a good reason none of the other media outlets ran this story.  Its not credible or accurate information.