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Report: PA's Susquehanna Most Endangered River in the Nation

May 17, 2011

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The Mississippi is making the headlines recently, but it's a river right here in Pennsylvania that takes the top spot in the new "America's Most Endangered Rivers of 2011" list.

Jessie Thomas-Blate, who coordinated the report for the group American Rivers, says there is a specific danger.

"This year our number-one river is the Susquehanna, specifically because of the threat of natural gas drilling that's happening in the watershed."

Thomas-Blate says there is special concern in Pennsylvania about hydraulic fracturing or "fracking," a process in which oil companies take large amounts of water from rivers and streams, mix it with sand and chemicals and pump it underground to break up rock formations so as to be able to extract natural gas.

Thomas-Blate maintains the risks that come with fracking are well documented, such as with 'cracked casings.' She says when a company drills a natural gas well, it has to build a cement casing around the well.

"And in some cases, those cases are faulty and so they crack, and then the contaminants that are being put down into the well are coming back out of the well and can get into the water supply."

Thomas-Blate says there will likely be some key decisions made this year that could decide where the Susquehanna finishes on next year's list, and she'd like policymakers to take a precautionary approach.

"Issue a moratorium on water withdrawals and on hydraulic fracturing in the watershed until the right regulations can be put in place and enforced in the watershed to make sure that people's water supply is protected."

While oil companies generally keep the chemicals they use in fracking a secret, the industry maintains that the risk of fracking fluids coming into contact with an aquifer, or ground water source, is remote.

The full report can be seen at www.americanrivers.org

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA