Is Binghamton’s Water at Risk?
by Buck Quigley - posted 6:36 pm, September 20, 2012
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.