When I first moved to Johnsonburg Apr 23, 2010 the tap water seemed pretty good compared to some places I had been. Then over the next several months, things began to change. By the end of November 2011 I was actually getting heartburn from drinking the water.
I was also getting dry skin and occasional rashes. i began to feel ill and developed Congestive Heart Failure alll the time, with my legs and ankles swollen more often than not.
I actually had to be hospitalized a few times because of chest pains and edema in my legs. I was gaining weight but not eating more than usual. Walking became more and more difficult.
My family also was beginning to feel this strange malaise.
A little help was buying bottled water, but still my overall health had begun to rapidly diminish.
Whenever I would go to the CVS Pharmacy , there was a smelly mist in the air. it is sticky too. In the course of 15-20 minutes while waiting for my prescriptions to be filled, I was becoming sick to my stomach from the sickening odor coming up from the sewer treatment plant behind t he CVS.
Walking too has become far more painful and difficult. So while in the Pharmacy, I often sit and wait. I asked on several occasions when the smell was overly pungeant and nauseating, how they can manage to work there under such aweful circumstances. The girl smiled and said she needs her job~ So there she is poisoning her lungs more daily because for some reason Domtar is considered a sacred cow and untouchable, being the biggest employer in the town. Domtar has over 300 employees.
Johnsonburg once had a population of 10,000 and a few years back it was said to have about 2,000.
Small groups of residents try to get together and fix some things, like the town park. They worked hard cleaning it up in the spring and planting flowers and are trying to make it suitable for children.
Unfortunately it never can be suitable with Domtar's chimneys billowing out putrid mist byproducts of its paper mill process. While sometimes its more like boiled cabbage - other times it smells like a diaper genie that hadnt been emptied in a month in the summer.Sickening smell~!!
On top of that is the sewer treatment plant a few blocks away and within site. Thats the one by CVS - so the park gets hit from 2 sides with the stinking pollutants, which could be corrected. They dont correct it and continue to pollute~! They have been in violation the last 11 quarters~! its not uncommon for Domtar to do such since its public record that they do it in most of the other places they have mills as well.
Domtar is not all to blame however. On Nov 18, 2011 the DEP responded to a large amount bentonite near the town's Sedimentary Reservoir , where our drinking water comes from.
Coincidentaly this is about the same time I began getting sick from the water and yet I never heard of the spill until last week. I just found out, being relatively new in town, that the municipal water supply is owned by a private company and though its been able to get a 'pass' on quality, testing shows the water at the maximum considerable allowable for pollutants.its high in all sorts of toxins and the owner of the water says the water is the same as it was before the spill, I didnt find any scientific proof to validate his assertion. I wish I could believe it but I have now been buying bottled drinking water for nearly 2 yrs , wondering why the Johnsonburg water supply has continued to get worse.
When researching, using Google maps, trying to find the reservoir, I found it looks mostly empty, muddy and sick looking. No wonder my skin itches after bathing~!! My sons also complain of the water both for drinkng and bathing. One of my son's young dogs developed kidney problems from drinking the water and had to go to the vet a few times . He ended up having to give her away to get her out of town to a safer environment.
I have met several young people who have lived here all their lives and the one boy told me he has had gout since he was about 3. My son too developed gout as did my other son. I had a young mother and her 2 children staying with us for 4 months in 2010 and the baby girl was having breathing problems so much i had to get her a nebulizer and bought and ionizing dehumidfying air conditioner.
The new 10,000 BTU airconditioner, while I rarely place it lower than 78, has helped to filter out some of the stink from Domtar. It has however caused my bills to rise since I have to keep all my windows closed all the time.Still there are days that even with the windows shut, the stench permeates the place anyway.
The gas drilling company later put new pipes in that lead away from the reservoir. The water owner says the water is the same it always was.
The water /sewer bill for a home in Johnsonburg is over $211 every 3 months.That is the minimum charge whether their water is used or not.
When researching Johnsonburg, I have found it alarming that the gas drilling company was able to drill close to the water supply to contaminate it.I find it alarming that Domtar is polluting the air and also the river and has only had 1 $8,000 fine over the passed 11 quarters and that it chooses to remain non-compliant and operates in violation to the governments Clean Air Act. they have other papermills and the one in Tennessee is also out of compliance and breaking the law with its pollution.
The sewer plant behind CVS is the worst one I have ever been nearby. I had lived in Knoxville Pa for over 16 yrs and though its water tasted like bleach on occasion, their sewer plant never stank as much as Johnsonburg. The closest I can recall to ever have a foul sewer plant was briefly in Wellsboro, as they worked on compliance and remedied the problem in a hurry.
So I wonder as I see like pages on Facebook started by people who want change and to fix some of whats wrong in Johnsonburg.
Why cant Domtar get its chimneys fitted with custom catalytic converters, much like the ones used to treat acid rain elsewhere ??
Why cant the town get their drinking water clean and not just at the max tox allowable?
Why should we be having to pay high waterbills when the water remains polluted?? Why cant they clean the water or find a new water source? Towns have literally died elsewhere through out time when their water supplies either became polluted or dried up.
These issues bother me and concern me for tbose who have young children or elderly living with them here. Even those who may not feel affected, are being affected and it will show up in the years to come.
We live across the river from Domtar. I never would have guessed sa town making paper could smell worse than a garbage dump.
While I agree our nation needs to develop its own natural resources and that oil/gas drilling is necessary, I have seen the damage done in Tioga county and surrounding areas by not hav ing enough inspectors to make certain the drilling companies are not posing an environmental risk.
I will seek out who to file with to have the water monitored more carefully and hope that DEP will send in inspectors, particularly on a Sunday morning or during the week, at night, when it seems the odors are their worse.
I bought my house here and so I have to stay as I can not afford to pack up and leave.I write this as a plea and hope to find others willing to join together and appeal to the government to have these matters fixed since we do have a Clean Air Act and this town is in total violation.
I saw a group called Lets Save Johnsonburg. I hope they mean it as I want to help find solutions and see them implemented.