The Seneca Nation is calling upon the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) to reject permit applications for a destructive water quality management and discharge plan at the headwaters of the Allegheny River that would have severe impacts on the Nation’s Allegany Territory, located 65 miles downstream from the project.
In a letter to PA DEP officials, Seneca Nation President Todd Gates called for the denial of the proposed plan by Epiphany Allegheny, LLC (Epiphany) and the Coudersport Area Municipal Authority (CAMA) that would allow for the transport, treatment and release of thousands of gallons of dangerous wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) into the Allegheny River.
“Allowing this plan to move forward would permit poisonous contaminants to travel downstream into New York State and onto the sovereign ancestral lands of the Seneca Nation, which sit upon the Ohi:yo (Allegheny River),” stated President Gates. “The Seneca people have a deep spiritual connection with the land and we depend on our natural resources, including native plants, trees, wildlife, fish and water. These resources are critical components of our culture. We will zealously defend and protect what remains of our territories and our natural resources, which would be further threatened by this dangerous plan.”
The current plan by Epiphany calls for wastewater created by fracking, a practice not legal in New York State nor authorized on Seneca Nation lands, to be transported to the CAMA wastewater plant in Eulalia Township, where it would be treated and released into the Allegheny River system. The proposed treatment facility would discharge up to 42,000 gallons of treated fracking water into the river each day, although the plant can process between 20,000 – 80,000 gallons daily. Water used for fracking in Pennsylvania contains high levels of radiation.
In his letter, President Gates contends that during extreme high water events, which are a regular occurrence in the region, contaminated sediment from the facility will be transported and deposited downstream, ultimately accumulating in the Allegheny Reservoir, which sits on Seneca Nation Territory. The reservoir was created by the construction of the Kinzua Dam in the 1960s, when 10,000 acres of Seneca land was condemned by the United States government and approximately 600 residents were removed from their homes.
Further, President Gates explained, the proposed treatment facility would be located in a 100-year floodplain. In the event of a flood or spill, thousands of gallons of untreated hazardous and radioactive material stored on-site would be released directly into the Allegheny River.
“Allowing pollutants to be released into the river and transported downstream would create imminent health risks for thousands of residents of Pennsylvania, New York and the Seneca Nation,” he said.
President Gates said the Seneca Nation was not consulted on the proposed changes that would allow the treatment of the hazardous wastewater from fracking, as a sovereign government located downstream from the project site. The Nation is calling upon the State of New York, communities between Eulalia Township and the Nation’s Allegany Territory, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United States Department of the Interior, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, to stand together to halt the proposed activity.
“There is no proven technology that allows for the complete treatment of wastewater from fracking, particularly in the Marcellus shale region,” he said. “Allowing this project to move forward would be a reckless assault on Mother Earth, the resources of the Ohi:yo, the health of thousands downstream and future generations.”
Written comments of any length may be provided to Thomas Randis, Environmental Program Manager, at 208 West Third Street, Suite 101, Williamsport, PA 17701, or via email at RA-EPNCEPIPHANY@pa.gov, no later than January 29, 2018.
By Ken Cosentino