It is safe to say that, at least since the 1980s, no issue dominated the Bucks County political scene more than the Pump. Political careers were made and lost over the Pump. The Pump turned friends into enemies and, occasionally, enemies into allies. It cost millions of dollars more than originally anticipated to build the Pump, and at times it seemed the people making the most money off the Pump all had diplomas from law schools hanging on their walls. It started out as a typical, albeit large, public works project and eventually evolved into a symbol of revolution. Here are some comments about the project recounted to the authors by some of the participants, nearly 40 years after the Pump shook the political foundation of Bucks County.
“It must have been 1967, about a year after I became a county commissioner…The concept was to increase the acre-
age of Bucks County parks and open space and to increase water supply for water authorities in Central Bucks and Cen-
tral Montgomery counties. We decided to finance the whole program through the sale of water to Philadelphia Electric
Company to cool its towers at Limerick. It was a major success, and it turns out we were proved right. At the time, the
jury was literally out on whether it was a good idea and I have no doubt that it was.”
—Charles Meredith, former Bucks County commissioner, on when he learned of the plans to build the Point Pleasant
water project and why he supported it.
“I lived in Point Pleasant, about 100 yards from the Pump… My instincts were that I didn’t like the idea. And I’ll tell you
why. I actually never thought that the Pump would drain the river. I thought two things. One, I was not a friend of nuclear power, as I am now, for climate reasons. I was worried about it then because there was no capacity for disposal of waste, it lasts forever. I was worried about nuclear power. The other thing is I was really worried about overdevelopment, and I thought that river basins should be sort of self-sufficient. How much development can you have? Should water be a limiting quantity? I just thought the idea of an inter-basin transfer was in some way pushing the environment too far.”
—Jim Greenwood, former Republican US representative from Bucks County, on why he opposed the Point Pleasant
“I followed it in the newspapers. I grew up in Doylestown, my whole focus was what development was doing to the part of the county where I lived. I was living in Furlong. We bought our first house in 1976, it was a little place in Furlong. I just followed it in the newspaper. Right from the very start I looked at it as something that was put in place to promote development, which got my attention.”
—Rich Myers, the former president of Del-AWARE Unlimited, the environmental activist group formed to oppose the
Point Pleasant water project.
“I realized they had this Rube Goldberg idea of sending water from the Delaware River over to a power plant that had
been poorly-sited because there was not enough water for it on the Schuylkill and they are going to make up for it when there are low flows by building [a] reservoir and it would also be used in times of low rainfall or drought conditions within the Delaware River watershed…It was a two-way street, for people who were opposed to the Limerick nuclear power plant but didn’t realize what was going on in the Delaware River watershed in terms of all of the plans. We also have educated each other and a real movement came out of that.”
—Environmental activist Tracy Carluccio, on why she joined Del-AWARE to oppose the Point Pleasant water proj-
“It was perceived as a benign project in the beginning with no idea what was going to evolve…I mean it was viewed
broadly as positive, and then the nuclear thing cropped up, the development thing, and a few agitators got into it.”
—Charley Martin, former Bucks County commissioner and former public affairs officer for PECO.
Note from Hal: I graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism in May 1976. A few months later I found my first newspaper job at a paper in the Pennsylvania anthracite region, about 100 miles north of Bucks County. Every reporter’s first job is the police beat. You call the local police departments every day and write up the crime news for the next day’s paper—the burglaries, shoplifting arrests, barroom fights, whatever. If there is a fire or nasty auto acci-dent in town you are the reporter sent out to cover it. Occasionally, you might get a big story, like a homicide or armed robbery, and you get onto page 1. But mostly you write about burglaries and car accidents featuring minor injuries. That was the job I was doing when, the following March, a tip was phoned into the newsroom about a flood at a nearby coal mine. I hurried out to the scene and discovered nine miners were already dead. It turned into a national story because one miner was still alive and trapped in the shaft. It took more than a week to dig him out of there. Network TV crews, wire services, big city papers from New York and Philadelphia—they all sent reporters to cover the rescue. It was a huge story and I stood at the entrance of that mine for practically every minute of it. And when it was over, I asked myself, “Is this it? Four months in the business and I have just covered the biggest story of my life?” Well, I guess I was wrong.
Note from Andy: Similarly, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, a public works issue that would impact my life, as have few others, was the furthest thing from my mind. During those years virtually every ounce of energy I had was spent pursuing a career as a high school teacher and coach, raising two sons under the age of four, and launch- ing a run at becoming an elected Warminster Township supervisor.