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Real Delaware River Pollution Down Rathole of History as DRBC Fiddles

natural gas now - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

The DRBC, New York DEC and Delaware Riverkeeper are fighting what they speculate will be Delaware River pollution from fracking while ignoring the real thing.

According to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), pollution of the river is an existential threat. Given Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) data showing “no discernible impacts on the quality of water resources as a result of natural gas development,” that’s anything but the case. More importantly, though, it ignores real Delaware River pollution that’s occurring every day as the DRBC, its members and its Povertykeeper/Riverkeeper allies go out of their way to ignore it.

Delaware River Pollution

The Barnes Landfill, located one-half mile from the Delaware River and polluting it every day as the DRBC and DEC worry about “landscape changes.”

Ignoring real problems and violators while harassing those who merely want permission to do something good is the standard operating procedure of most governmental bureaucracies. Ask for a permit and you’ll be treated to reams of paperwork, months of delay and nitpicking in the extreme. Ask the same agency to address a violation or tackle  an existing problem, and you’ll be treated to a litany of excuses of why it can’t be done.

That’s what’s happening with Delaware River pollution. Here’s what the DRBC says is the threat (emphasis added):

High volume hydraulic fracturing and the related alteration of landscapes required to support that activity pose risk to high value water resources. It is expected that practically all of the development and related disturbances from high volume hydraulic fracturing would occur in the drainage area of Special Protection Waters. Approximately 70 percent of the basin area underlain by the Marcellus and Utica shales (largely in the drainage area of Special Protection Waters) is forested. The average total disturbance associated with a single well pad, including associated access roads and utility corridors, is estimated at 7.7 acres. Off-site facilities such as gathering lines involve additional disturbances. These landscape changes will reduce forested areas and potentially vegetated buffers, increase non-point source pollution, diminish groundwater infiltration, and risk adversely affecting water quality and quantity in surface and groundwater.

Read that again and you’ll notice the DRBC starts the paragraph with “high volume hydraulic fracturing” and then quickly transitions to “landscape changes” that will supposedly reduce forested areas and “risk adversely affecting water quality.” It’s nonsense, of course, as Wayne County forestland has grown by 44,458 acres or 16.7% since 1959.

Moreover, if the DRBC can claim high volume hydraulic fracturing is a threat because this might result in some inconsequential loss of forest just added in the last half-century, than the agency just told us nothing else can take place either; no development of any kind in a county actually being taken over by forests. That ought to scare everyone living in the basin about nature of the power grab taking place, but it’s what’s not happening that’s even more revealing.

I’m talking about some real Delaware River pollution the DRBC and its member, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), are blatantly ignoring. It has to do with an old landfill in the Town of Highland, Sullivan County, New York. It’s known as the Barnes Landfill and is located roughly one-half mile from the Delaware River, just south of the Roebling Bridge.

The landfill is leaking leachate into the Delaware River and has been for years because no governmental agency will take ownership of the abandoned landfill (it surrendered for taxes and declared tax-exempt without the county ever taking the deed). The DEC, in fact, stopped collection of the leachate several years, simply saying it no longer had funds to do so although it had plenty of money to harass others simply trying to do use their property.

Check out this video from my friend Ned Lang:

This is no new issue, either. Here’s an excerpt from a River Reporter article of 14 years ago:

With a closure costs escrow fund now depleted, state officials are looking from someone to assume the cost of removing overflowing landfill leachates at the Barnes Landfill.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has suggested that the Town of Highland assume leachate removal costs, but the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) says the landfill is a potential threat to the Upper Delaware and should be the state’s responsibility.

In June 25 letter to the town, state DEC geologist Andrew Lent reported that the landfill escrow account was depleted and that the state “does not have access to funds,” to continue collection of leachate from a tank at the landfill…

Last Thursday, the UDC responded to the letter, saying that allowing the tank to overflow because of the lack of funds was “unacceptable.”

The UDC said the leachate could threaten nearby groundwater supplies, as well as the federally protected Upper Delaware River. The panel recommended that the DEC view the landfill as “an emergency situation.”

…After a lengthy controversy and episodes of landfill run-off at the adjoining Kittatinny Campground, the DEC shut down the landfill in 1989.

Closure and capping of the landfill was undertaken and an escrow fund was established by the landfill operator, Robert Liguori.

Ownership of the property is in limbo today. Liguori, according to UDC Highland delegate Lewis Schmalzle, purchased the property from Emmett “Steve” Barnes, but never filed the deed.

Both Liguori and Barnes are deceased, and despite the non-payment of property taxes, Sullivan County has avoided acquisition of the land.

So, here we are, today, with the DRBC pretending “high volume hydraulic fracturing” is somehow a potential cause of Delaware River pollution because it might lead to “landscape changes,” while the real thing is ignored. The DRBC is a member of the Upper Delaware Council and, therefore, has no excuse for claiming it doesn’t know about the Delaware River pollution from the Barnes Landfill.

Yet, a search the DRBC website produces nothing. They’ve dismissed it and pretended it doesn’t exists, just as they have deliberately ignored SRBC data. Likewise, a search of the DEC environmental remediation database reveals nothing, despite the fact DEC paid for remediation for several years and this story from 2008:

Stormwater apparently infiltrated the leachate collection system at the former Barnes Landfill in mid-April, prompting an overflow of the holding tank, Bill Runge of the Department of Environmental Conservation reported last week.

Runge said the DEC had every reason to believe that the road, off Woods Road, which serves the leachate tank and the tank itself would be soon be repaired and serviceable again. The collection system has already been repaired, he said.

The landfill, now closed for a decade, was a source of controversy in the late 1980’s when a Westchester County trash hauler bought the small existing landfill with plans of creating a regional landfill. With increased use, the existing hillside landfill drew the complaints of neighboring Kittatinny Campground, located downgrade. Leaking leachates from the trash eventually prompted felony water pollution charges against owner Robert Liguori and the landfill closed shortly thereafter.

Runge said the DEC has no reason to suspect any hazardous spills from the overflowed tank, but the agency spills unit was notified to begin a case log in order to build a case should repairs not be made. Samples of the overflowing leachate were taken for analysis.

Reporting before the Upper Delaware Council, Runge asked for a volunteer to assist the agency in monitoring the landfill, which he said is visited by DEC staff once a year.

It appears the records have been purged of the real Delaware River pollution. The UDC keeps discussing it but, essentially, everyone continues to throw up their hands and put on their Alfred E. Neuman “What, me worry” faces, especially the DRBC and DEC folks.

Delaware River Pollution

Carol Collier and Steve Tambini, Former and Current Executive Directors of the DRBC

Yet, the DRBC Special Protection Waters Monitoring Program Explorer shows above average Barium in the river at the first water testing location below where the Barnes Landfill leachate enters the river:

Delaware River pollution

Barium levels are below average above the point where the leachate enters the river and we know Barium is frequently associated with landfill leachate. There is, therefore, every reason to suspect the Barnes leachate is contributing to real Delaware River pollution while the DRBC and DEC speculate about the harm “landscape changes” supposedly associated  “high volume hydraulic fracturing” might cause; speculation contradicted by the SRBC data in its own hands.

This is the corrupt DRBC and corrupt DEC who are denying landowners in the Upper Delaware region access to their mineral rights and who plainly plan to use “landscape changes” as their excuse for making a wilderness of the properties on which we have to pay taxes and make a living. They refuse to see the real Delaware River pollution while they steal us blind claiming we’re the threat.

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3 thoughts on “Real Delaware River Pollution Down Rathole of History as DRBC Fiddles

  1. Come on! You are sounding like the anti-gas people. Do NOT jump to conclusions based on ONE parameter!!! What are sample results for ALL of the parameters used as indicator pollutants of Landfill leachate? While barium is ONE of the Indicator pollutants of landfill leachate, it is also found in local areas in HIGH concentrations, e.g. Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

    What is boron concentration? It is a better parameter than Barium to indicate leachate is in the water.

    • I said “there’s every reason to suspect,” Al and there is, based not only Barium, but also on the documented evidence leachate is running into the river and everybody is running away from the problem, pretending it isn’t there, while speculating about “landscape changes” of no significance in the big picture given how much forest we’re adding every year.

      Do you know of any other sources of water quality data on the Delaware that might be examined? The said 10 years it was testing the leachate runoff. How would those results be found? More to the point, isn’t the big question why the DRBC, with $30 million in the bank isn’t testing the runoff itself if it’s so damned concern?

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