circle of life indigenous medicine wheel

Questioning The

Coudersport Authority

An Opinion Letter

By Georgeanna DeCarlo


I like the way that Director of Media and Communications for the Seneca Nation Jason Corwin introduced himself to Coudersport Area Municipal Authority (CAMA) members at their meeting Monday, February 26. After thanking them for taking the time to listen to him, Corwin acknowledged a comment made earlier that night by Coudersport Borough Manager Beverly Morris's husband, David, who said, “The people that sit in front of you are smart, they're intelligent, they're hardworking. They will take everything into consideration and I trust their judgment one hundred percent.”

Corwin confronted what's been an underlying problem for everyone who's voiced their opposition to CAMA's partnership with Epiphany Environmental to put a frack Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) here since they heard about it last June - in a brilliant way.

I'm glad to hear that you all are intelligent and thoughtful people,” Corwin said, “I'm relatively intelligent myself. I graduated with high honors and Dean's List from Cornell University and I have a Phd. in natural resources also from Cornell University.”

I grew up here, a third generation resident, same as some CAMA members. I barely recognize these people who now sit stoic during CAMA meetings allowing their solicitor to field questions for them.

Since when does questioning an authority insinuate that you think that they're stupid? That is an outdated strategy that served to instill fear and subsequently control a school room. Stifling input from residents who are paying you to serve in the position that you're in is indicative of dictatorship, certainly not what our founders had in mind when they created this country as a democracy.

Our leaders should expect to be questioned. What members of the public are bringing up at CAMA meetings is addressing a gaping hole, a void where data should be.

CAMA should have been prepared for a barrage of questioners and stood ready with risk assessments, environmental impact studies, background business portfolio of their new tenant and partner, Epiphany Environmental LLC (Epiphany). Especially after we got a crash course in the damage that frack chemicals, carcinogens can inflict on our environment and its inhabitants a few years ago when JKLM contaminated the aquifer at North Hollow and violations at wellheads have become commonplace. It could be years before we see the affect of radiation. But we have evidence from communities already afflicted; scientists discerning the data and journalists determined to expose the truth.

As a result of JKLM's toxic injection into the aquifer, and ongoing endangerment of fracking, some of us attended Frack University,

Even knowing this, CAMA still didn't feel obligated to produce documentation to prove that their acceptance of JKLM's proposal to create a local spot for JKLM to dispose of its frack waste was a well-rounded decision where wellness of environment and residents took precedence. A pattern emerges when we connect dots and recognize that some of these CAMA members, and the solicitor himself, George Stenhach, share positions on Coudersport's Water Authority. They were the ones that handled the aftermath and eventually took our town's water supply including that going to Charles Cole Memorial Hospital, offline. They didn't knock on doors then to inform residents that their water was contaminated so expecting them to do business differently and work pre-emptively in the public's best interest, seems a stretch.

I think the reason that this gaping hole exists is because CAMA is well aware that processing the preliminary work that usually precedes implementation of a project of this magnitude – exactly what the public has been clamoring for - would have proven this project too hazardous of a risk to take.

Corwin also spoke to another glaring and significant difference in the way that business is conducted in the Seneca Nation and here, locally. He said that his degree wasn't what made him intelligent or wise, that what did was that he listens to the elders in his community.

I listen to the women and what they've said is that the water is the most important thing. Air - the quality of life is more important,” Corwin said, “All of you have children and grandchildren and families. I know you don't want to do anything that will put their lives at risk.”

Since residents began attending CAMA meetings last year, their input has has been patronized, mocked and at times barely tolerated. I think CAMA members were banking on our fear of insulting or challenging them. That they counted on our politeness, the respect that we give to our relationships as their friends, neighbors, relatives to inhibit us from questioning their decision. And when they learned otherwise, tried to turn it back around on us, portraying it as if the people who questioned them were ignorant or misinformed.

We've seen the destruction firsthand of what frack waste does to an aquifer.

CAMA's response to questions regarding safety is to refer people to DEP or Epiphany. But DEP currently does not possess the agency oversight that most people assume that it does. DEP can approve a permit and provide full agency oversight on a frack WWTF that would still be spewing radioactive materials and countless chemicals, carcinogens. Ask Epiphany? They've never created nor operated a frack WWTF before and their proposal, particularly claims about safety are getting shredded by environmental scientists daily.

List of those harmed grows daily with fracking production. .

When is enough, enough? Are the fatalities, the birth defects, the assault to people and our environment's health, worth it? What do we value most?

There were many brilliant speakers who addressed all facets of this issue, the crux in the road we're on, to CAMA members at their February 26th meeting. So many, that transcribing the whole public comments meeting is something that I am working on. Resounding message was to consider first the impact of our actions on others; all is related, and to broaden our perspective to long-term thinking that upholds value of sustainable living in balance with the circle of life.

It is worthwhile for everyone to hear what CAMA members heard that night.

I will close with what one of those speakers that night ended his comment to CAMA members with. Steven Gordon from Seneca Nation said, “So my grandfathers always used to say at the end of my teachings, they would say, (speaks in onöndowa'ga:' gawë:nö', Seneca language)- When you go home, you think, you think really hard about this. And when you get up in the morning and you look at that face that's looking back at you in the mirror – can you live with that person? Are you satisfied with the decisions that you've made? I will hope and I will pray that you are all wise men and women.”


Photo Credit: photo from Wake Up World online article, “The Medicine Wheel of Time and Karma” By Jennifer Deisher, “'The Medicine Wheel' We tend to look at time as linear with events happening one after the other and this is true. But time is also experienced in cycle. We may not find the exact same events or opportunities recur, because change is constant in the Universe, but we will find similar energetic opportunities are presented to us so that we may confront and release our karmic patterns and emotional triggers.”