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WVIA News Special: To save the river, save the mountain

The undulating ground beneath Northeast Pennsylvania tells a story.

Underground miners chipped away at anthracite coal while strip miners shredded the earth’s surface to meet the economic demand of an industrializing nation for more than 100 years. The Lackawanna River carried the burden of the coal industry’s waste. Although the last mines closed in the early 1960s, deposits of iron and magnesium —apparent as bright orange stains — still smear the Lackawanna’s shores to this day.

For the last 35 years, Bernie McGurl has told the Lackawanna River's story as the executive director of the Lackawanna River Conservation Association — a Northeast Pennsylvania based nonprofit that aims to clean up the Lackawanna River and preserve the watershed by engaging the community. Now that Bernie’s tenure as executive director has come to an end, the region is experiencing another wave of economic demand brought about by online shopping. Conservationists, like Bernie, wonder if anything has been learned from past industries like coal mining to ensure a better environmental and economic future for the region and the people who live along its waters.

Kelly Dessoye is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and video journalist with over 12 years of experience. With a belief that video is the best way to give stories the dignity and nuance they deserve; she leverages technical skills gleaned from years as a cinematographer and editor in the advertising world with an insatiable curiosity and desire to amplify stories that are pushed to the wayside.
Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.

You can email Kat at katbolus@wvia.org