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Protesters oppose wastewater dumping

Michael DiVittorio

“It’s our water. We will fight. It’s our water. It’s our right.”

This chant along with signs stating, “No Fracking Way” and “Frack Off” were heard loud and clear as roughly 30 protesters gathered at the Clairton Municipal Authority Thursday afternoon to oppose dumping untreated waste water from Marcellus Shale drilling into the Monongahela River.

Members of Communities United for Rights and Environment, Marcellusshaleprotest.org, area bloggers, punk band members, and a few people from United Steelworkers protested such action outside the entrance to the facility at 1 N. State St.

“This plant, along with the McKeesport plant, together are permitted to dump 120,000 gallons a day of total dissolved solids in our rivers. What do we think of that?” asked Alex Lotorto, organizer from Marcellusshaleprotest.org. “What do we think of fracking?”

“No!” replied the crowd.

Fracking refers to hydraulic fracking, a process that results in the creation of fractures in rocks through pumping chemicals and other fracturing fluids into a well bore to increase the output of a well.

“We want to implore the superintendent of the municipal authority to not accept a single drop of frack water,” Lotorto said. “Downstream we have communities, 350,000 people drink (water) out of the Monongahela River every day.”

“What kind of government allows this poisoning of our water, our children, our grandchildren?” CURE spokesperson Ken Weir asked. “What kind of government allows this• A government that needs changed. How does a government change happen• It happens by us being right here on the sidewalk. We are making a statement that things are not right and we want change. Things have to change. The people have to be heard. It’s our water and we will fight.”

“This is the water for baby formula and bathing our children downstream,” CURE founder Loretta Weir said. “If corporations are going to be granted the same rights as citizens, then the DEP should not be permitting this dumping to happen. If you or I dumped toxins like benzene and bromide into the Mon River, we’d be thrown in jail.”

Clairton Municipal Authority is one of 14 water plants that dispose of waste water from the hydraulic fracturing drilling process for extracting gas from Marcellus Shale.

The city facility is permitted to discharge 40,000 gallons of drilling waste a day into Peters Creek, which flows into the Monongahela River. The plant is located across from U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, where federal Environmental Protection Agency inspectors regularly monitor water and air quality.

“We are permitted by the (state Department of Environmental Protection),” authority vice chairman Tom Ward said Thursday night. “We’ve never gone outside of our permit. We have a guideline that we have to follow.”

Ward also noted methods are being developed to help purify the water.

Protesters said the process of hydraulic fracturing is not regulated by the EPA because of a Halliburton loophole.

Bob Donnan of Peters Township joined the cause in 2008 after changing his mind about Marcellus Shale drilling.

“I thought this was a good thing at first, then the tap water went bad (as a result of fracking),” Donnan said.

Justin Sane of Wexford, singer and guitarist from Anti-Flag, said companies are not being held accountable for their actions.

“These companies say they will follow EPA guidelines and will be responsible for any contamination,” Sane said. “The reality of it is frack drilling is not held accountable by the Clean Water Act. They’re exempt from Clean Water Act. How can they say they are going to follow EPA guidelines• That’s a fallacy. Right there we know they are lying.

“If you believe what the natural gas industry has to say about how they are going to protect the environment while they drill for natural gas, I know an executive from BP who has some swamp land in Florida and a bridge in Brooklyn that he wants to sell to you very cheaply.”

Sane also likened other industry actions to treason and terrorism.

“If Al-Qaeda destroyed the drinking water of a farm in Pennsylvania or an entire community in Pennsylvania, every politician from California to New York state would be calling for blood,” he said. “They would be sending the military out. These people from the natural gas industry know they’re polluting our water. That’s a criminal offense. Furthermore, I think it’s traitorous. These are U.S. citizens that are engaged in a practice that they know will hurt other Americans. To me that’s absolutely traitorous. That’s totally anti-American.”

Some motorists passed by honking horns in support of the protesters while others allegedly yelled comments like “get a job.” The latter offended Lincoln Place resident and protester Barb Pribila.

“We do have lives. We have jobs,” she said. “We’re just concerned.”

Pribila said drilling is expected to begin near her and fellow Lincoln Place residents Joann Mapleton’s and Beth Asper’s houses.

“None of us signed for this (drilling). None of us agreed to do it,” Asper said.

Mapleton said she is 72 and is fighting to help others have a privilege of a longer life.

Most of the protesters eventually left Clairton for Pittsburgh to further protest Marcellus Shale drilling Thursday.


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