Making Way for Drilling Trailer Park Residents Are Evicted to Make Way for a Pipeline to Serve the Natural Gas Industry

Article excerpt

JERSEY SHORE, Pa. -- On hot days, twins Amanda and Chevelle Eck splashed in the Susquehanna River behind their trailer in the Riverdale Mobile Home Park.

Anytime their mother, Deb, worked late at her discount-store job, neighbors would meet the girls at the school bus stop and treat them to ice pops.

In less than five months, their community has all but disappeared as residents were evicted from the park to make way for major industrial development planned by the land's new owners. Some had to surrender their mobile homes in the process of moving.

"Basically, part of my family has been ripped away," Ms. Eck, 50, said in early June. "And I'm not giving up my home, too. I own my house. I bought that thing with sweat and I earned every damn penny I've put into that place. I just don't happen to own the ground it sits on."

Ms. Eck and her 10-year-old twins left Riverdale on July 7, towing their trailer to another mobile-home park.

The few residents who remained were ordered to be out by 5 p.m. Thursday, but at least one couple got a short extension because they still had nowhere to go.

The 12 acres Riverdale sits on are now owned by Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resource Partners. The partnership will use the parcel in a $50 million plan to build a water-pumping station and 36-mile pipeline able to carry millions of gallons of water daily from the Susquehanna to natural gas wells.

This small park that once held 32 trailers, home to an oft- ignored and marginalized population, has become yet another flash point in the national debate over the impact of natural gas drilling and the industry's methods.

Some say it is the first example of outright evictions because of Marcellus Shale operations in the drilling hotbed of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia.

Riverdale provided affordable homes to a cluster of working-poor families and the elderly of Jersey Shore, a borough of 4,300 people between Lock Haven and Williamsport.

Most residents owned their mobile homes and paid $200 a month to lease the land. The majority had neither the desire nor the means to leave. No one bothered to ask them, they said.

The Lycoming County Planning Commission approved site plans Feb. 16.

Land owners Richard and Joanne Leonard sold the parcel to the partnership for $550,000 on Feb. 23, according to assessment records. The trailer park's manager declined to comment for this story.

Aqua America initially offered residents a $2,500 incentive if they moved by April 1. The deal dropped to $1,500 if they packed up by May 1.

Donna Alston, Aqua America's spokeswoman, said company officials later realized the Riverdale tenants were not given adequate notice of eviction.

"As things became clear to us, ... we extended the period of time to move," she said.

The company hired a real estate agent to assist in relocations and offered $2,500 to all who moved by June 1. When some residents still did not leave, the company offered more money and more time. …