Oil is washing up onto the shores of Louisiana and Florida. But these are not the only American shores to suffer environmental catastrophe from oil spills.
In 1972, Hurricane Agnes took an unusual turn over the East Coast. After passing over Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, the storm swung back over the Atlantic and regained strength. It moved back over New York state on June 22, and on June 23 the hurricane was hovering over Pennsylvania.
Heavy rain meant flooding, and the surge of water hit cities in upstate New York and Pennsylvania hard. For the Keystone State, there was $2.3 billion in damage caused by flooding and 50 deaths. Shamokin, PA, had 18 inches of rain.
The rising water damaged more than cities.
The flooding released 6 to 8 million gallons of oil into the Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River, coating trees and riverbed grasses. In this photo from the Environmental Protection Agency (Record Group 412) Documerica Project, you can see the reddish brown sludge on the banks.
Has the river recovered? Thirty years later, the river is an important resource, with 10% of Pennsylvania’s population relying on the Schuylkill River for all or part of their water supply.
But even if the water is drinkable, the river remains in danger.
Oil spills are not a thing of the past. This month, a fire at an electrical transformer sent several hundred gallons of oil into the river. And development threatens it—the watershed is about 2,000 square miles.
To see what the people of Pennsylvania are doing to protect this river, visit Schuylkill Action Network.