The Upper Delaware River is rightfully recognized as a National Scenic and Recreational River by the U.S. Congress. Commercial gas drilling, as practiced here so far, would degrade the scenic and recreational quality of this river. There is no way it could do anything else. Therefore, gas drilling needs to be prohibited within the designated boundary of the scenic and recreational river if that designation is to have any significance.
Recent news articles make clear that inadequately treated gas well wastewater is being discharged into other Pennsylvania rivers. My children and grandchildren (and I) swim here, and untold mussels filter feed on Upper Delaware waters. In fact, it is these mussels that maintain the exceptional water quality we find here. I have heard no one ask, “What effect will gas well waste water have on the essential mussel population in this river?”
Rare and endangered dwarf wedge mussels thrive in these waters. Are they to be ignored in order to allow us the freedom to drill wherever we want? They are critically important to these waters because they cleanse the water as they feed. In truth, the many species of mussels that thrive here are all critical to the health of this aquatic system. Yet it seems we gloss over organisms dwelling out of sight at the bottom of the river and deny their beneficial impact.
The bottom line is, or should be, that we must stand firm against violating the Special Protection Waters that are the Upper Delaware River. This is a critical test of the intent of the U.S. Congress, the scientists, the parks professionals, the swimmers, the poets and artists, and just plain citizens who recognize and respect the rare beauty and sparkle that is the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Will it withstand the onslaught of industry? Only time will tell, and only if the efforts of those who love this river provide adequate protection. Speak out, folks. This is your river. It needs our help and resolve to remain “special.”