Activists travel from Dunmore to Scranton to protest environmental concerns

·3 min read

Jun. 22—DUNMORE — Trekking on foot from the peak of Dunmore, past the Keystone Sanitary Landfill and downhill into Scranton, a group of about 25 activists from all over the East Coast chanted and chatted while protesting environmental concerns affecting the region.

The around 6-mile jaunt from the entrance of the Dunmore Reservoir 1 ended at the John Mitchell Statue on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square. It was the first leg of the Walk for Our Grandchildren & Mother Earth. The environmental activists plan to travel 170 miles over the next eight days from President Joe Biden's hometown to the Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent the majority of his life.

They're walking to urge the Biden administration that future generations deserve a "rapid, uncompromising transition away from the unhealthy, unsafe extraction and burning of fossil fuels while embracing renewable energy, especially solar and wind power."

The group, led through the borough and city by union organizer and activist Alex Lotorto, stopped at the entrance of the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, staying on the shoulder of the busy road while trucks moved through the industrial park and hauled garbage into the landfill. Some activists carried a gigantic inflatable black tube inscribed with "stop the landfill expansion" and chanted "Hey hey, ho ho. Keystone Landfill's got to go," according to organizers.

"We don't want to smell it; we don't want to see it; we don't want to breathe it and drink it," Scranton resident Melinda Krokus said outside the entrance. "We want to see some action now. ... If not, there's going to be more of us out here."

The state Department of Environmental Protection recently approved a major permit modification for the landfill expansion, giving it the capacity to triple its volume, bringing in an additional 188 billion pounds of waste over the next four decades. Lotorto said that the landfill is also proposing discharging leachate into Little Roaring Brook, which flows into Roaring Brook Creek where people swim, fish and walk along its shore.

The activists, carrying signs reading "Tell Governor Wolf No Expansion" and "I stand for what I stand on," walked through Swinick Development in Dunmore, down Blakely and Green Ridge Streets and turned on North Washington Avenue, heading to downtown Scranton. They chatted about current environmental issues nationwide and shared stories from past protests and walks.

Ella Cohen, 14, of Scranton, founded the group Scranton Goes Green alongside other likeminded high schoolers. The proposed 40-year expansion of the landfill impacts her generation, the incoming freshman at Scranton Prep said. She joined the march on behalf of her group.

"We're fighting the fight for as long as it's needed," she said.

Steve Norris, of Asheville, North Carolina, organized the first Walk for Our Grandchildren & Mother Earth in 2013, going from Camp David in Maryland, to Washington, D.C., to pressure President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

His fellow environmental activists call him "the father of the walk."

Norris, a soon-to-be great-great grandfather, said the walks are a nonviolent way to bring attention to the issues.

"You never know whether you're going to win or lose," he said.

The group ended their hike through Lackawanna County by laying roses at the feet of Mitchell, a labor activist. On Tuesday, they head to southern Pennsylvania.

Early Monday at the reservoir, Dunmore Mayor Tim Burke sent the group off.

"Thank you all for being here, don't give up the fight," he said. "We really appreciate all of you being here. It's something so big and important to our area."

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