Riverdale Residents Blockade Aqua America Construction Road
Piatt Township, PA – Riverdale residents and supporters have blockaded access to a mobile home community that is facing imminent displacement at the hands of Aqua America, a major water withdrawal company that supplies natural gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale region.
Approximately thirty residents and allies are currently blockading entrance roads to the community. Supporters have also placed tires and wooden boards at the entrance, alongside banners reading “Aqua America Kills Community” and “We Will Fight For Our Homes.” A Range Resources security vehicle arrived onsite Friday morning, and security officials videotaped residents, blockaders, and license plate numbers before leaving.
The blockade was launched to halt Aqua America’s plans to begin construction of a withdrawal facility for water from the Susquehanna River to be used in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations. Aqua America recently purchased the entire Riverdale mobile home unit to be used as a withdrawal site, and has issued lease termination notices to thirty-two Riverdale families. Construction is set to begin on June 1, and it is unclear what additional steps Aqua America will take to displace those families who are choosing to remain.
The dismantling of the community has left many residents in tears over the loss of their home. Deb Eck, one of the remaining residents, stated, “This park isn’t just a bunch of trailers with a bunch of people who don’t know each other. We’re all friends. We’re all neighbors. It’s a community. It’s one big family.”
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) permitted construction of the Riverdale water withdrawal facility in March. The SRBC, comprised of representatives from the White House and the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, granted forty-eight withdrawal permits at its March meeting, despite the objections of concerned residents. Aqua America has been permitted to withdraw up to three million gallons of river water daily. Susan Obleski, spokeswoman for the SRBC, stated that the Susquehanna has been facing severe drought this spring “at levels that haven’t been seen since 1910 and 1946.”
Fracking has been linked to cases of water contamination in towns across the country including Dimock, PA and Pavilion, WY. The gas industry is exempted from the Clean Water and Safer Drinking Water Acts and as a result, many of the chemicals used in drilling are unknown. Pennsylvania law restricts the ability of local governments to regulate fracking operations and gags doctors from sharing information about chemicals used in fracking with public health officials. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protecting is facing criticism for its refusal to list the Susquehanna River as “impaired”under the Clean Water Act. According to John Arway of Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Commission, there has been a significant increase in fish with black lesions in the Susquehanna since last summer.
Residents and supporters are committed to stopping construction of the water withdrawal facility that threatens to raze their community. They are demanding that Aqua America permit residents to remain in the homes, compensate those who have already left, and allow for the return of all residents who have already been displaced. Residents have requested that more supporters converge in defense of the Riverdale mobile home park and to, in Deb Eck’s words, “help us keep the River in Riverdale.”
“We are here in solidarity with the residents of Riverdale, who are on the frontlines of the devastation that fracking is causing across Pennsylvania,” said blockader Lauren Zygmont. “We are putting our bodies on the line to send a message to perpetrators of environmental injustice worldwide: as long as you continue to sacrifice communities like Riverdale for profit, you can expect resistance.”
“Help Us Keep the River in Riverdale”: International Day of Solidarity with the Riverdale Community on Monday, June 4
Riverdale residents and supporters are calling for an international day of solidarity action in support of the Riverdale community this Monday, June 4.As relocation resister Deb Eck has put it, you are invited to come down and “help us keep the River in Riverdale.”
Yesterday, residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park and supporters set up barricadesat the entrance of Riverdale to stop the community from being displaced by Aqua America’s plans to construct a fracking water withdrawal facility and send a powerful message to perpetrators of environmental and economic injustice. And so far, it is working. Though Aqua America had announced that it would begin construction on June 1, company representatives were unseen around Riverdale yesterday, and no construction has yet begun.
Residents of the Riverdale Mobile Home Park are going into negotiation with Aqua America PVRon Tuesday. They are demanding the Aqua America PVR allow them to remain in their homes, compensate those residents who have been displaced, and acknowledge the right of return to those who have left but wish to come back. We are calling on you to support Riverdale residents over the next several days and help them hold onto their homes and enter negotiations strong. If you would like to participate in Monday’s day of action, this is what we need:
More people. An Aqua America representative stated in today’s newspaper that construction is scheduled to begin soon, possibly on Monday. While about 30 supporters converged on Riverdale yetserday, unfortunately some have had to leave. Our strength is in numbers, and we need you here on Monday to ensure that Riverdale residents can continue to remain in their homes. The encampment is located at 7 Riverdale Lane, Jersey Shore, PA. We can arrange rides to pick up supporters in Danville, Bloomsburg, or Williamsport. Please call (510) 318-1549 if you need to be picked up, and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you need or can offer a ride.
If you can’t make it to Riverdale, we are calling for solidarity actions against Aqua America PVR and it stakeholders and financiers across the world, as well as the governors of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and President Obama, all of which are represented on the SRBC and voted to authorize permission for this water withdrawal site. Please take action to hold these corporations and politicians accountable on Monday. As a first step (but not a substitute for your own autonomous actions), we encourage folks to call-in to Aqua America corporate headquarters on Monday at (610) 527-8000and let them know that you think displacing the residents of Riverdale is unacceptable. You can also pay Aqua CEO Nick DeBenedictis a visit at his mansion at 231 Golfview Rd., Ardmore, PA. Click here for more information about PVR shareholders (see bottom of page). Please email email@example.com if you would like to organize an action in your community.
Money. Though our encampment is not luxurious, we do need to provide food to those supporters who are giving their time and putting their bodies on the line to stop construction. We also need bail money so that we can support Riverdale residents as well as supporters if and when human blockades become necessary. Other expenditures will include art supplies, paper and ink for flyers, and a wi-fi hotspot so that we can keep the world updated about resistance in Riverdale without driving to Sheetz. We also accept in-kind donations. Click here to donate to the Save Riverdale general fund and here for the Occupy Well Street bail fund, and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can donate supplies (see wishlist here).
Resist extraction, displacement, and other forms of environmental and economic injustice in your own community. The attempted displacement of Riverdale is one more example of the sheer brutality and inhumanity of extractive industries from natural gas to coal to oil to uranium across the globe. We urge everybody to engage in your local community struggle against these and other forms of injustice.
Riverdale residents and allies have received an outpouring of local support; even fracking brine trucks honk as they drive by the park, and local television and newspaper coverage has been outstanding. Both residents and supporters have been emboldened by this experience (see a short set of images from yesterday).
Stopping construction of this water withdrawal facility will not only allow Riverdale residents to remain in their homes, but will also hinder the fracking industry’s ability to access the water sources necessary to operate additional drilling rigs in the surrounding area.