Residents Suffering from Marcellus Shale Gas-Related Truck Traffic
By David Ira Kagan
Talk to anyone these days who lives in western Lycoming County along Route 44 above Jersey Shore and up to just above Waterville at the intersection of Routes 44 and 414, about a 12-mile stretch along Pine Creek, and you will hear a tale of suffering. Suffering from the negative effects of Marcellus Shale gas-related truck traffic (including many 18-wheelers). The noise, the danger, the pollution, the dirt, the high level of traffic.
Barry Barto, who has lived in his Waterville home right along Route 44 for about 16 years, said, “It’s just a constant flow of trucks, seven days a week, 24 hours a day--morning, afternoon, evening, middle of the night. I work at Jersey Shore Steel, have for 32 years, and I have to deal with the truck traffic on my way to third-shift work and on my way home.
“And back in the summer, I couldn’t open my doors or windows because of the dirt raised by the passing parade of trucks. Just a month ago I power washed my house, and you can’t even tell that I did, the dirt is so bad already again.
“Now this afternoon I have a load of wood coming up, and I’ve got to get him to back into my driveway. How is that going to happen safely? I’m going to have to stand up at the corner and wave to the truckers to stop or something. It’s just so bad, I’m beside myself.”
Keith Orgitano, Assistant Fire Chief of the Waterville Fire Company, who also lives in Waterville directly along Route 44, had one word for the truck situation—“Terrible!” He then spoke about his experience the previous night.
“It, the truck traffic, was terrible last night. I mean all night long. Living right on the main road like I do, you can’t get away from it. I even tried going back into my daughter’s bedroom to try to sleep, but I couldn’t. It just keeps you awake all night long.”
Orgitano then spoke of the danger of pulling out in his vehicle from where he lives: “I have to edge out quite a way to see up the road. One day recently, in response to a fire company call, it was a good thing that I had my light flashing, or I probably would have gotten it right there.
“And there was an accident here in Waterville today with one of the water trucks. It was a pickup truck’s fault, but it probably could have been avoided if the water truck had been going a little slower. The pickup went underneath the water truck and was smashed up pretty good. The driver was unhurt. He was very lucky.”
Mike Engel, a third Waterville resident in a home right along 44, mentioned that at night his bed shakes and vibrates from the passing trucks. Also, Engel likes to spend time in the woods in the mountain above Waterville. About that he commented, “Today I was turkey hunting, quite a ways from the road, maybe a quarter mile up the mountain, and it was very noisy from the truck traffic. After about two hours up there, I finally said to myself, ‘Gosh, this isn’t relaxing,’ and I left.”
Paul and Enta Ertel, who have a home, again right along Route 44, between Torbert Village and Tombs Run, about five miles above Jersey Shore, also expressed their distress. She said, “Paul and I have had this place since 1969, and it’s just amazing this year. I’ve been up every night listening to the trucks because there are trucks going by all night long. And this morning Paul went out to get something from the car. He was gone at the most five or six minutes, and he counted 11 huge trucks going by.”
Anne Swanson, from Michigan and visiting with the Ertels, added, “I’ve been here almost a week, and I’ve been awake all during the nights. The other morning, I was lying in bed, listening to the whoosh of the trucks going by, and in less than an hour I counted 132 vehicles, most of them trucks. I was shocked.” She continued, “For others considering vacationing here, I’d tell them not to, with all this truck traffic, all this degradation of the landscape.”
Jim Hyland, Forest Program Specialist for the Bureau of Forestry, who drives from his home in Jersey Shore up to the new District Office in Waterville each day, commented on another negative aspect of the extremely high level of truck traffic: “The impact on wildlife is real. In traveling to Waterville each morning, I see it first hand. New dead critters every morning. This morning a big raccoon. Other days there are deer, fox, and various smaller mammals. Who knows how many deer and bear are just clipped and make it off the right of way, though mortally injured?”
In a November 9th Pennsylvania Cable Network television broadcast, a call-in program on the Marcellus Shale gas industry’s impact, Representatives Garth Everett of Lycoming County and David Levdansky of Allegheny County answered callers’ questions. Representative Everett addressed a question about the gas-related truck traffic up Route 44 from Jersey Shore to Waterville. He stated that the road was a main artery for the burgeoning gas industry, using the word “industrial” route, and that it would continue to be so for years.
Residents of this 12-mile-stretch of “industrial” Route 44 are clearly suffering from what they call an almost incessant din of passing trucks—often said also to be speeding and using their noisy engine Jake brakes. Waterville and Cummings Township have tried to take action, with the installation of a sign at the base of the hill at the south end of the community banning the use of these brakes. The township has also placed a sign at the base of Dam Run Road, banning trucks from using it to get to the drilling sites on top of Puderbaugh Mountain there.
Others express their concern over the possible effects of the noise on wildlife in Pine Creek Valley. And of the possible effects on humans, wildlife and plants of all the additional exhaust fumes from the trucks. And of the fact that the roar of all these trucks can be heard all along the Pine Creek Rail Trail from Jersey Shore to above Waterville, tainting what had been an outdoor activity providing a peaceful, quiet communion with Nature.
Whether the chemical-laden “fracked” water will cause problems in the future is still debatable. Whether methane gas will seep into Pine Creek and the wells along it in the future is still debatable. What isn’t debatable is that the truck traffic related to Marcellus Shale gas drilling is already causing suffering.