The town of Dimock, Pennsylvania is notorious for its fracking-contaminated drinking water. Now the town is facing a new threat, a fracking wastewater treatment plant, which we discuss in part one of this two-part series. In this article, you’ll hear from Victoria Switzer, a Dimock resident who is leading the charge to protect Burdick Creek and beyond from this new proposal.
Victoria was raised in a rural community in Falls, Pennsylvania. She attended Mansfield University and Marywood College, and she taught school for 32 years. She’s married and to her husband Jimmy and she has 3 daughters and 4 grandkids. Currently, she divides her time between art and accidental activism.
People adapt. We fought the gas wars earlier, over a decade ago.
We lost except for an important victory—a nine-square-mile drilling ban. The drilling ban remains in effect until the drinking water of a number of homes is “restored” or returns to “historical” levels of methane gas. We enjoy the quiet night sky again. The big owls, heron, bear, deer, wild turkey, raccoon, opossum and all the creatures of Penn’s Woods have quietly returned to the valley. Burdick Creek flows freely without injury from discharges or spills from earlier drilling operations. Truck traffic has died down. The only intrusion is the periodic spewing of nearby gas wells that need to be stimulated and the rumble of a nearby compressor station.
Our little valley and creek seemed like a retreat from it all. It was a little piece of paradise right in the middle of the most prolific shale field in Pennsylvania. Marcellus Madness surrounded us yet we had our protective dome.
Dimock, Pennsylvania. Photo by Victoria Switzer.
To be honest, I nearly lost my mind when my neighbor told me an oil and gas waste treatment facility was going to be built nearby. The location was to be on a swampy piece of land two miles away. Their discharge point would be a tiny, unnamed tributary of our Burdick Creek. The tributary meanders across a pasture with beef cattle then downhill through another pasture with dairy cows. It then enters the waters of Burdick Creek and passes through the yards of eight homes. Farther downstream, the creek water will be withdrawn for fracking operations. Our creek is to be their filter.
We have been asked to be the “sacrifice zone” by our elected officials and the gas industry. Our local government cowers before the gas company or becomes one of their tools. Our township supervisors and our planning commission both gave their approval minus one planning commissioner who quit just before the required vote. He could not vote “yes,” so he quit. All the rest lined up like good little worker ants….marching one by one to the steady beat of the drill.
They want it all, no rock unturned, no limits. I don’t wear the coat of that army. I never will. I serve the valley, the wildlife, the majestic old Hemlocks on the slopes. We’ve adjusted our dream life of living here in a peaceful valley with our neighbors, neighbors who have all left. So it is the animals, the creek that I protect.
Finding beauty, peace, hope is my daily mantra. I walk the road that runs beside Burdick Creek nearly every day. I am welcomed, greeted, on most occasions by a brilliant white red-tailed hawk. She claimed the valley as her home about five years ago. She saw me through some tough days after my parents passed, 12 days apart. She gives me hope when I am feeling down, worried about the price we pay for living in a shale field.
Victoria Switzer’s painting of the white hawk
The White Hawk has become my symbol. If you are lucky you will see her soaring over Burdick Creek and down the valley. Although her old nest was cut down a few weeks ago, she remains here. I haven’t found her new nest and was so very relieved to see her again after the loss. If you have ever watched the courtship of the hawk and her mate soaring, spiraling down then straight up to the heavens, you are blessed. The youngsters shrill call for their parents, a flowing creek, the steady wind down the valley and the answering shriek of the White Hawk are an irreplaceable song.
So now, I must wait for the decision of a court that doesn’t make decisions based on beauty or God’s gifts from the natural world. A judge may see fossil fuels as the most important resource. Glorious Gas has replaced all here in the shale field. It is a hungry machine. Decisions will be made for the continuation of an industry that is arrogant and negligent.
Come and visit while the Hawk still soars and the creek flows free and clear. Maybe if she hears my whistle she will give you a fly over! You will be changed when you see this raptor! I have been changed. She will always be with me, no matter what may come, no matter where I live.
Victoria’s photo and painting gallery of Dimock, Pennsylvania. Use the arrows to scroll through the gallery.
References & Where to Learn More
Read part one of this series, “Dimock residents working to protect water from a new threat – fracking waste“
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