Local Group Vigilant in Keeping Waterways Safe

Washington PA  Observer Reporter
20 November 2011

"The stuff that we have found is no good."

This is one of the first things Ken Dufalla, longtime resident of Greene County and sportsman and president of the Harry Enstrom Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of Greene County, tells me. We're sitting in a conference room around a table with Jim Butler, Greene County farm owner and key member of the league.

These guys don't look anything like your stereotypical, REI-clad environmentalists. Dufalla wears a plaid button-up over a T-shirt. He looks like he just walked in from the woods. And he may have. The local chapter of the Izaak Walton League, which according to its membership pledge, "strive[s] for the purity of water, the clarity of air, and the wise stewardship of the land and its resources," now boasts 47 trained volunteers testing the water at "more than forty locations, covering all head streams in Greene County, some in Monongalia (W.Va.) County, and some in Washington County."

Dufalla wants to make one thing clear: The Izaak Walton League is not opposed to "proper and regulated drilling or proper and regulated mining." The league is willing to work - and is working - with people in the extractive industry, and it is working closely alongside the state Department of Environmental Protection and also shares information with Environmental Protection Agency.

"But," he continues, "850,000 people depend upon the Monongahela River daily for water. That must be protected."

Despite the vigilance of Dufalla, Butler and the league's volunteers, "It is happening," Dufalla says. "We're getting illegal material dumped into our waterways. We were fortunate enough to catch a truck the other day.

The EPA has been in here, we have consulted the EPA, and there is a lot of other stuff going on that the EPA is aware of."

Part of the problem, according to Butler and Dufalla, is that even known issues may not be adequately resolved. Dufalla cites the California, Pa., DEP, who, he says, reissued a permit for a discharge site that was exceeding the standards set by the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board Standards for Totally Dissolved Solids and Electrical Conductivity. Water samples from the area taken by Dufalla, the Harrisburg DEP, and the California DEP showed there was a serious problem. "They reissued a permit for one of the discharges two months after they were aware of the problem," Dufalla says. "Now (the permit is) locked in for another five years."

"They basically issued a permit on a site that was already in violation of their own standards," Butler adds.

Butler and Dufalla continued to take me down unfamiliar roads, filled with chemistry and terms that made my head spin. Walking back to my car, I felt charged with heavy and even unwanted information. I don't want to be afraid to give my daughters a glass of water, and neither does Dufalla. At the end of the interview before he shook my hand, he looked me in the eye and said, "I want my grandkids to have a good life. I want your kids to have a good life. I want you to be healthy. I guess I'm too old to be afraid. It's time that this was brought to the forefront."

In future columns, I'll share more of what Dufalla and Butler told me about Marcellus Shale wastewater, land issues and their vision for a brighter future.

Meanwhile, you can read more about the Izaak Walton League and watch a video about their work by visiting https://sites.google.com/site/harryenstromchapter/. Stay tuned.