The whole team is back in the office today after another successful expedition to Frack Country in north-central PA. Here’s a quick summary of the mission. Video, 100s of photos and results of our monitoring will be published soon.
Last time we went out in the field we focused on the Wysox and Meshoppen watersheds in the upper Susquehanna River Basin, but we never got the chance to fly over the Pine Creek watershed.
This time we greatly expanded our effort, coordinating our trip with project partners The Downstream Project, several local watershed monitoring groups in Tioga and Potter counties, and Jim Weaver, director of the Tioga County Planning Commission, who came along for the ride with us in the plane. In a 4-seat Cessna, provided to us by our good friends at LightHawk, volunteer LightHawk pilot Jamie Gamble flew in from Massachusetts to take us on a 3-hour flight over threatened forest land in 4 counties while we captured video and about 750 photos of fracking sites situated in Pennsylvania State Forest lands.
While the “skytruthing” team was in the air, the rest of the crew did a little “groundtruthing” by visiting and photographing drilling sites with the greatest potential to negatively impact state forest and the headwaters flowing into Pine Creek which have so far largely escaped damage from spills and runoff caused by Marcellus Shale fracking and drilling activity. Bryn Hammerstrom of the Pine Creek Waterdogs was our tireless host and guide, and local retired USGS Ecologist Bob Ross took us out into the streams to show us how the Waterdogs are routinely sampling water quality at sites throughout the watershed.
The next day SkyTruth and The Downstream Project were invited to present our mission to the Pine Creek Watershed Council where we showed them aerial photos from the flight. During that meeting the council was able to identify from the photos a previously unknown chronic water pollution problem, and also a suspected permit violation at the site of a gas pipeline compressor station. After the meeting we got right back out into the field in Potter County with Bob Volkmar of God’s Country Trout Unlimited, who gave a demonstration of the Trout Unlimited water quality monitoring protocol to SkyTruth interns Yolandita Franklin and David Donohue.