It was l976. I was fishing Elk Creek in Sullivan County. At a certain point above and quite near this native trout stream, was the Elkland Landfill. I had fished this stretch of Elk Creek in the past. What I saw on this trip was a strange and disturbing sight.
Items designed to be in the landfill were strewn along the bank. Some trash actually was in the stream. After I got home from a day of fishing, I called the local Waterways Patrolman. I knew him well from our Trout Unlimited projects and the many times I spoke with him during ice fishing trips in winter and seasonal trout fishing trips to Loyalsock Creek and smaller feeder streams. His reply to my report was “don’t make waves. This is the best place in Sullivan County to shoot rats.”
I was livid at his statement and promised that this was not the end of the subject; only the beginning. Since I lived and worked in the Williamsport area, I knew a lot of folks who loved to hunt and fish. One of those folks was State Senator Henry G. “Merc” Hager. He was president pro tem of the Senate. His Williamsport office was on the second floor of the same building that I worked in; the Irvin Building on West Third Street, just across from the Lycoming County Courthouse.
I called his legislative assistant, Robert Somerville, explained the situation and asked for a brief meeting. I got that meeting within days. I did not know Senator Hager nor did he know me. But as an avid trout angler he knew about The Susquehanna Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
He listened carefully to my explanation of the sighting, my telephone discussion with the waterways patrolman and his answer. I remember Senator Hager spoke in rage at this situation. His last sentence was, “I will take care of this.” I believed him as I knew of his fine reputation as an honorable person.
His office called about 10 days later. I was instructed to go back to the garbage sight and report my findings. I arrived at the sight to find a sign stating that the landfill was permanently closed. There were two heavy posts on either side of the beginning of the access road. They held a heavy chain and lock. In addition the landfill was covered with dirt and seeded with grass. Some of the grass was already growing.
The lesson here is that if you see something in the outdoors which your instinct tells you is wrong, report it. You can start with your local PA State Conservation office They certainly know where to take your sighting and complaint.
I has occasion to speak with that unnamed Waterways Patrolman a few months later. He obviously saw the closed landfill and my guess is he wondered how that happened. When we spoke, he asked if there was anything negative between us. I answered, “not anymore.” I am still proud of my conduct; not letting go of the situation. That was 44 years ago. I would not hesitate to do the same thing again.
Get out and enjoy nature. God gives us so much if we will only see and appreciate!