Impact on water resources should be the bottom line for everything we do.
Water is affected by industrial and personal wastes, pesticide/herbicide use, farming methods, forest management, oil and gas exploration, mining practices, urban development, energy production and stormwater runoff. So it’s up to us to ensure we don’t destroy water in the process.
It’s also an indisputable watershed fact that water flows downhill and that it doesn’t recognize political boundaries, so knowing more about your watershed is important for protecting water. You should know: if your watershed is shared with other municipalities, the location of any industrial activities, the percentage of impervious areas, whether development forces auto dependence and uses more land than necessary, the condition of the streams, which green areas need to be conserved and if regulations are adequate to protect the safety of water for people and wildlife.
Following the path of runoff from your roof or garden or from a farm or industrial site could help you realize that any fertilizers and chemicals used can eventually reach the closest stream. Faulty septic systems, gas wells and increased runoff can also affect water quality. And these problems don’t stay in local streams; they flow downhill and cause health, environmental and economic problems downstream.
This week we will follow the path of water from the Sixmile Creek Watershed, which drains 48.99 square kilometers or 18.92 square miles of farmland, undeveloped land and urban areas in portions of Venango, Greenfield and Greene and Harborcreek Townships.
Just near the headwaters that drain to Sixmile creek in Greenfield Township is the 7200 feet Adameck #1 gas well that was drilled in 2013. SLC Energy, a gas and oil company from Nevada, lists more projects in Greenfield, Venango and Green Townships on their website including Adameck #2,3,4,5, Afton 1,2,3, Chylinski 2,3,4, May 1, Hinkler1 and Turner 1, which have not yet been permitted. While the impacts of the new gas-drilling boom have not touched this area, environmental, health and economic problems associated with it are affecting water and millions of people across the country. The process used to extract natural shale gas takes millions of gallons of water, often taken from streams, lakes and rivers and adds toxic chemicals, and injects them deep into the shale to release the gas. Wastewater produced in the process also becomes a problem since it contains toxic chemicals and radioactive materials, which cannot be removed by wastewater treatment plants. Surface and groundwater have been impacted in many areas. And when wastewater is trucked to injection wells often far from the well site, water is removed from the watershed.
It is likely the Sixmile Creek watershed will also be the focus of much future land development. One of the great concerns about water in Harborcreek Township is the problem of stormwater runoff. Replacing natural areas with buildings, roads and other pavement changes the amount of water that is absorbed into soil. Instead of recharging groundwater it becomes runoff and creates localized flooding. It also causes pollution as it carries oil and antifreeze from leaking cars, fertilizers and pesticides, and sediment into nearby streams. Therefore according to the 2010 Harborcreek Township Comprehensive Plan, the township is committed to smart growth principles as a means to properly steward its remaining land and water resources.
What about you? Learn more and become involved in protecting the Sixmile Creek Watershed by joining David Beals, the PLEWA Sixmile Creek Watershed representative as he walks up Sixmile to its headwaters. Contact Beals at firstname.lastname@example.org.