paddlers gather at the end of the 10 mile trip

Participants gather at the end of the 10 mile paddle.  Photo by Greg Gorman

Who knew you could battle dirty coal and river rapids at the same time?  This past Saturday, June 4th, the MAPLE coalition (made up of Greenpeace, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Sierra Club, Stop the Lines, New Jersey Highland Coalition, among others) joined forces to call for the shutdown of the Portland Generating Station in Portland, PA.  

The cool part?  We protested on the Delaware River! The 4 hour trip was a unique opportunity that let the 33 people who participated in the protest see exactly what it is we are working so hard to protect.  This plant, which sits directly on the banks of the river, not only pollutes the air, land, and people of eastern PA and western NJ, but it is destroying the river that cuts through the beautiful countryside.  The plant’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which controls water pollution, expired in 2007.

During the trip, I talked with a local resident who has spent a lot of time on this river throughout her life.  We talked about the lack of animal life in the river, and she said that it has been years since she has seen any tadpoles or frogs but she remembered a time when they were plentiful in the area.  

Looking down into the water, I kept searching for any sign of active, vital life.  Finally, I found some!  A small school of tiny fish no bigger than a baby’s pinky finger.  While I was so happy to find something living, it made me sad.  This was it?  Wasn’t there anything else living in the water?  There were several people on the river fishing and not one of them caught anything.  The lack of life really saddened me.

After paddling down 10 miles of beautiful, rugged Pennyslvania landscape, we finally saw the ugly towers of the Portland coal plant.  As we neared our final destination, we pulled signs and banners from inside our boats and began chanting “hey hey, ho ho, dirty coal has got to go.”  Representatives from the local media snapped pictures from the bridge above us and rushed down to interview participants once we were docked.

It was amazing to see so many different people come together to stand up for the right to healthy air, land and water.  It is the end goal of a clean, healthy and lasting environment that draws us together and makes us stronger and ultimately more powerful.  Because in the end, we are right - “Dirty Coal has GOT to go!”