No Riverdale Evictions, Yet…

In The Post-Facebook Era, There’s No Excuse for Bad Corporate Behavior

[UPDATE: ay 4, 2012] This report from Protecting Our Waters:

Bad news: the residents of Riverdale Mobile Home Park (on the Susquehanna River near the town of Jersey Shore, PA) have received word from Aqua America subsidiary Aqua PVR’s hired realtor that they will, in fact, be evicted — oops, I mean, have their water and sewer services cut off and have the offer of a token relocation fee of $2,500 removed, on June 1st.  It costs at least $6 – 10K to move a mobile home, so Aqua appears to be willing to force some of these families into homelessness, and all of them deeper into poverty, rather than delay construction of their $24 million water withdrawal facility. Riverdale residents also keep hearing persistent rumors that they will be allowed to stay, so it’s very hard for them to cope or to know what to do. 
 
Meanwhile, Aqua has not taken any steps towards even token corporate responsibility regarding the billions of gallons of Susquehanna River water they’ve received a permit to withdraw in order to sell to fracking corporations. They have not insisted that they will not sell water to companies that use open, plastic-lined impoundments for toxic fracking waste. They are not insisting on green completions. They are in the business, it appears, of first evicting people who have nowhere to go with absolutely no real compensation for displacing the Riverdale residents; and secondly they are in the business of laying infrastructure as fast as possible with every intention of selling increasingly scarce clean fresh water to frackers “as if” after the water runs through their pipes and they make their profits, they bear no responsibility for the poisoning of air, water and climate that inevitably results. They fracture, in fact destroy, a vital community and then fragment their own sense of responsibility in such a way as to make it — their sense of responsibility — disappear. If you pay your own water bill to Aqua, please consider withholding your payment.
     If you haven’t done so yet, please feel free to write Aqua a letter here: http://citizenspeak.org/campaign/saynotofracking/aqua-america-no-evictions-fracking
     Stay tuned.

[UPDATED, April 20, 2012]

The “No Evictions for Fracking!Press Conference on April 18, 2012, organized by Protecting Our Waters, and co-sponsered by a broad coalition of environmental activists, was a success. Groups represented included: Berks Gas Truth, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Elk CARES, Food & Water Watch, Fracking Truth Alliance of Lawrence and Mercer Counties, Gas Truth of Central PA, Groundswell PA, Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition, KeepTapWaterSafe, Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Marcellus Protest, New York Residents Against Drilling, Pennsylvanians for Clean Land, Air and Water (PA CLAW), and StopFrackingPA! With about two dozen water activists on hand representing them, there was also handful of press covering it.

Carolyn Beeler of WHYY Newsworks reports in Groups protest at Aqua America Over Fracking Involvement on April 18, 2012: “Aqua is offering relocation money until June 1, but said it does not plan to start evicting residents if they do not leave by that date. Kyriss said he expects to have the water pumping station operational by the second half of this year.”

Richard Ilgenfritz of MainLineMediaNews posted excellent video of the conference, along with written coverage. “This is about their children’s children.

Local CBS affiliate, Mark Abrams, was there. He demanded to know who was the one spokesperson, and he got Iris Marie Bloom, but then left out half of her soundbites. Abrams did get Karl Kyriss, Aqua America’s Executive Vice President, on record saying: “There are no plans to evict anyone.” This comes as a great relief to residents in Riverdale, Jersey Shore, PA. It’s a temporary reprieve, yielding much-needed time for them to sort this out.

BrynMawr.Patch.com has reported on our hometown water giant at length. Editor Danielle Vickery covered the press conference in her post, Clean Water Activists Protest Fracking By Aqua on April 18, 2012.

Hands down the most interesting exchange occurred during the Q & A, between Andrew Maykuth of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Iris Marie Bloom of Protecting Our Waters. You can read Maykuth’s April 19, 2012 article, Trailer Park Becomes Aqua America’s PR Problem on Philly.com.

Maykuth questioned Bloom in detail, and his reporting is solid, as always, but I feared he was obscuring the point. Or maybe it wasn’t clear? Maykuth is a pro-business writer, and while I wish he were more pro-Earth, too, he’s stuck with Marcellus water issues from the beginning. And I admire anyone who’s inclined to engage all sides. So I sent him an email, of course:

What amounts to a ‘PR problem’ for Aqua is actually an all-encompassing, life-altering trauma for this neighborhood. Stephen Cleghorn makes the point most succinctly in a comment on ProtectingOurWaters.com:  “A whole community is being sacrificed to the gas rush.

It’s sad. It’s also progress, I know. The fact Aqua is helping these people is great, but they aren’t really showing good corporate citizenship, are they? Considering how much they stand to earn off this new facility, they offered Riverdale Residents chump change.

The way I see it, water is life, and right now Aqua owns the water. Not every public utility ought to be so thoroughly privatized. Regardless of who resident point person, Richard Leonard, blames or sues, these massive, SRBC-approved fracking water withdrawals are draining the life out of PA’s communities. Corporations may be viewed as people according to the law, but it’s not the law of the jungle! Aqua is a successful, bottom-line oriented company, and it doesn’t have morality, even if all their leaders and employees do. It’s like a brilliant android with no emotions.

I also mentioned that any Aqua rep was free to come down and speak to the activists yesterday: We were on their front door step, and we arrived pre-announced.

I did receive a courteous and thoughtful reply. I’m glad my point wasn’t lost. I don’t think Maykuth, or Aqua, or anyone else for that matter, thinks they’ve had the last word on Water or Gas Drilling.

Check out a short video clip video of the Maykuth-Bloom Q&A exchange here.

~

Sign the Citizenspeak.org Campaign letter, “Aqua America, No Evictions For Fracking” here.

~

UPDATE, April 22, 2012: From DemocratciUnderground.com Shocking Conflict of Interest: Private Water Companies Partner With Fracking Lobby

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One Response to “No Riverdale Evictions, Yet…”

  1. Liz Rosenbaum Says:

    This comment is from “Clean Water Activists Protest Fracking by Aqua” by Danielle Vickery on BrynMawr.Patch.com, April 18, 2012.

    Iris Marie Bloom, Director of Protecting Our Waters writes:
    Aqua talks about environmental stewardship, but when I spoke with their Vice President for Corporate Development last Friday, I asked if they would even take the smallest step towards environmental responsibility in relation to fracking, and refuse to sell Susquehanna River water to fracking corporations which have open “frack pits.” These impoundments, lined only with plastic, hold toxic fracking waste. These frack pits guarantee further contamination of our air, groundwater, soil and foodshed. Aqua said they would not promise even that small step. Aqua should be building renewable energy facilities, not water withdrawal for fracking facilities. They should be helping families, not hurting them. And a de facto eviction (by building unbearably loud industrial pumps right next to where people enjoy peace, quiet and birdsong) is as bad as an actual eviction. Aqua should join the fight against fracking, not profit from it! You can write them a letter here:

    http://protectingourwaters.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/no-fracking-evictions-write-arrogant-aqua/

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