Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beer drinkers should unite

One of the most essential needs for human survival is clean water; without it you cannot survive.

A watershed area is the foundation of the water supply surrounding a particular stream or river. If you allow it to get polluted, you jeopardize the health of everyone who drinks its water. The best way to describe a watershed is that it looks like a naked tree. The top part of the tree, the canopy, is the headwaters area. The tips and the very top branches of the tree are analogous to the small tributaries that make up the headwaters.

These tributaries flow into bigger streams which are analogous to the thicker branches growing from the trunk. The main river corridor is analogous to the tree's trunk. Where the river meets the bay is analogous to the tree trunk meeting the earth. It is a large hydraulic system.

In the Brandywine Valley, at the beginning of colonial settlement, Lenape Indians and early European settlers could lie on their stomachs and drink from the Brandywine. It was pristine, pure, cold water. Fast forward to 2011; the population in the headwaters of the east branch of the Brandywine north of Downingtown is over 50,000 people.

Now due to lawn treatment chemicals from residential homes and golf courses, and industrial and agricultural pollutants you do not dare drink water directly from the stream. Even though the headwater areas are vital for protecting water quality and quantity, it is important to protect the entire watershed area to ensure safe drinking water. Any dangerous chemicals or pollutants introduced into the stream anywhere in the stream corridor will be detrimental to everyone downstream from that point.

The further from farm fields and housing developments where fertilizers and other chemicals can get into the water, the more pure the water remains.

The focus in this article is on the upper east branch between Honey Brook and Downingtown. This area is targeted for heavy residential development which will threaten the integrity of this water. The bad economy is the only thing that has prevented this area from getting trounced so far. Development converts water filtration areas into water runoff areas by replacing natural land with impervious rooftops and driveways. Protecting this watershed is vital to assure safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of Chester County residents.

Over many years conservationists struggled to protect this watershed but industrial and residential development trumped many preservation efforts. There just hasn't been enough public concern or knowledge about the watershed's importance to protect it -- until perhaps now.

What might that be, you ask? Beer! Not just any beer, but possibly the finest beer on the planet. Victory Brewery in Downingtown, an internationally respected brewery, whose Prima Pils, chosen by The New York Times as the number one, world's best Pilsner is totally dependent on the water quality of the Upper East Branch of the Brandywine to maintain its quality.

If every lover of Victory beer realized just how utterly reliant the protection of this watershed is to assure the impeccable quality of that beautiful cold golden-amber flow from the tap to their glass, they would protect this watershed with life and limb. Beer loyalists are like this, you know.

Now this is not an advertisement for Victory Brewery, but knowing how fervent beer lovers are, and considering that nothing else seems to have worked, can you imagine an organization called Beer Drinkers United for Watershed Protection rising up and organizing, raising money, and lobbying the government to designate the upper east branch an exceptional value stream?

Imagine signs along roads that read, "You are now Entering the Victory Brewery Watershed Area." Beer lovers rise up! Protect your watershed! Protect your beer!

(Richard Whiteford of Downingtown is an environmental communications consultant.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


1315 Walnut Street, #1650
Philadelphia PA 19107
215-545-0250 phone  
215-545-2315 fax

June 7, 2011              FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:          Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action           412-592-1283
                        Jeff Schmidt, Sierra Club                             717-232-0101
                        Adam Garber, PennEnvironment                973-986-8992

Hundreds at Capitol Rally for Action on Marcellus Drilling
Largest Rally in Harrisburg Calls for Drilling Moratorium and Environmental Protections

(Harrisburg) – Hundreds of Pennsylvania residents rallied at the State Capitol today protesting the state legislature’s inaction on Marcellus Shale drilling.  The coalition of groups holding the rally called it the largest that Harrisburg has seen to date protesting Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

The coalition called for:
1. A moratorium on further drilling in Pennsylvania until a full cumulative impact analysis on gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale is conducted.
2. Improved protections from gas drilling for drinking water supplies and rivers.
3. Ensuring that gas drillers pay their fair share in taxes, and utilizing these funds to restore cuts to the DEP budget.
4. Require full disclosure by gas drillers of all chemicals used.
5. Maintain the moratorium on further leasing of State Forest land for gas drilling.

Groups sponsoring the rally and lobby day included: PA Campaign for Clean Water, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, PennEnvironment, Gas Truth of Central PA, League of Women Voters of PA, Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia, Marcellus Protest, EARTHWORKS Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Green Party of Philadelphia, Mountain Watershed Association, Responsible Drilling Alliance.

Crystal Stroud, a resident of Towanda, PA, in Bradford County, described her health problems caused by drinking water contaminated with barium and other toxins from nearby gas drilling.  “No one is receiving help from our DEP, local, state or federal governments.  Our family has become collateral damage!  We are just 1 of the 33% failure rate of these gas companies. The failure to keep the residents of Bradford County’s wells contaminant free,” she stated.

Other speakers at the rally included Josh Fox, the creator of the film documentary, GASLAND, and Craig Saunter, a resident of Dimock, PA, where considerable water contamination from drilling has occurred.  Also speaking was Jonathan Jeffers, a former worker in Pennsylvania for Bronco Drilling, who described the neglect he saw for health, safety, and the environment while working on gas drilling jobs.

Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action, stated, “Drilling has been going on for nearly four years now, but still our state legislature has taken no action to protect residents from harm.  Legislators should take note that the crowds in the Capitol calling for action keep getting bigger.”  In addition to attending the rally, protesters made over 160 appointments with state representatives and senators, covering almost every corner of the state.

Several legislators attended the rally, many of whom have introduced legislation on the issue.  Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) stated, “We are the only state that doesn't tax them.  70% of Pennsylvanians understand this and want a tax.  Last year and half alone, drillers racked up over 1500 violations.  A severance tax will hold the industry accountable and ensure that the people of Pennsylvania are not left footing the bill.”

"The people of Pennsylvania are alarmed at the growing list of pollution incidents at gas drilling sites across the state," said Jeff Schmidt, Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter. "They are here today because they know that Pennsylvania's gas drilling law and regulations don't provide enough protection for our health or the environment.  We don't need an industry-dominated Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, whose roll has been to stall the needed reforms.  We call on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to immediately enact amendments to our antiquated OIl and Gas Act legislation, such as HB 971, to protect our communities," he concluded.              

“Every day, the gas industry succeeds in making its voice heard, trying to convince us and our decision-makers that Marcellus Shale drilling isn’t the biggest public health and environmental threat to hit Pennsylvania in a generation,” said Erika Staaf with PennEnvironment. “Yet poll after poll tells us that the majority of Pennsylvanians want industry to pay its fair share in taxes and want clean air and clean water. We’re here to make our voices heard and tell our leaders exactly that.”

“The elected officials of Pennsylvania need to listen to the people who live and work here -- we need protection from the gas industry’s out of control violations through a statewide drilling permit moratorium,” said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

"Elected officials heard loudly and clearly today that they have a duty to protect communities from the rush to drill," said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer for Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "Citizens are simply asking for health and the environment to be given priority over industry profit."

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