Energy. Environment. Economy.

BoomTown: How Drilling Has Changed Towanda, PA

Becky Lettenberger / NPR

Trucks drive down Towanda's main drag. Click on the image to view StateImpact Pennsylvania's new multimedia project, called "Boomtown."

StateImpact Pennsylvania’s latest project, BoomTown, documents how natural gas drilling has affected Towanda, Bradford County. Click here to watch and listen to the report.


What does a drilling boom look like?

In Towanda, Bradford County, it looks like trucks rumbling across Veterans Memorial Bridge and down Main Street. The vehicles,  hauling water, chemicals, equipment, sand and dirt more to and from natural gas drilling sites, have been a steady presence since 2008, when hydraulic fracturing began in surrounding Bradford County.

“The traffic here is horrendous,” says Joe Benjamin, a recent college graduate who lives in Towanda. But the increased flow also means more revenue for Towanda’s businesses. “That’s why we never complained about the traffic,” notes Karen Parkhurst, who operates a Towanda eatery called the Weigh Station. “When there’s traffic there’s people coming into your restaurant.”

Click on the above image to view StateImpact Pennsylvania's new multimedia project, "Boomtown."

Benjamin and Parkhurst are two of the dozens of people StateImpact Pennsylvania interviewed for a new multimedia project called “BoomTown.” Our goal was to document how natural gas drilling has changed life in a Pennsylvania town. We picked Towanda because it’s the seat of Bradford County, which has seen more Marcellus Shale wells drilled than any other Pennsylvania county. Towanda was one of the first communities to experience natural gas drilling here.

Towanda is also one of the first places in Pennsylvania to experience the downside of the drilling boom. The rate of drilling has slowed down significantly in Bradford County, as natural gas prices have fallen. That translates to less revenue for the Weigh Station and other Towanda businesses who saw increased profits in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Click here to learn more about how the drilling boom has impacted life in Towanda.


  • Pa Miller
  • NoFrackingWay101

    Too bad you didn’t ask the Weigh Station about their gas leases. Also–that’s not the main restaurant the town residents use. (And the weigh station is not on the main drag–soo—of course they would not need to complain much about traffic. Did you ask them about the family nursery RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE THE FRACK CHEMICALS are loaded? How the railyard’s chemicals flooded into that building? Guess the reconstruction reduced the kid’s toxic loads. Also–why no visit to the main restaurants the frackers USED while it was happening. YOU MISSED COVERING THIS WHEN IT HAPPENED, NPR. No mention of the aftermath of the timber and coal ‘booms’ (black lung disease). This was not good coverage.

  • Kaye Kiker

    Who would want to live in a community like this?? Property values must have gone south. The noise and pollution is bad enough, but quality of life and clean water is at stake in this community.

  • John Striley

    Diesel exhaust is produced when an engine burns diesel fuel. It is a complex mixture of thousands of gases and fine particles (commonly known as soot) that contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants. These include many known or suspected cancer-causing substances, such as benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde. It also contains other harmful pollutants, including nitrogen oxides You good folks are looking at 1 small aspect of industrial drilling pollution?

    • John Striley

      Live near a silica distribution site and your lungs are double dammed!


    I was in Towanda just two weeks ago, to visit my daughter, who is working on the pipeline and saw nothing but normal life for a small town. She raised in a farming community in the south, where we have constant exposure to insecticides, pesticides, spent diesel and the much more. Mr. Striley, this is life and those people in Towanda need development and growth. That town/area is many years behind. And as far as the property prices going south, you would never imagine what the property owners have put together for rental property. I have seen outdoor storage buildings that offered more than what some of the Towanda/Bradford County rental property has to offer…especially at the rate! These workers are getting robbed and kissing the robber at the same time. They get paid, pay the rent, buy food, gas, clothing and entertainment from the very people that have already robbed them for a shanty shack to live in. Thank God, my daughter’s time there is almost over! Towanda is not a friendly place…I have been…seen…experienced…I know!

    • Towanda Born and Raised

      Feel free to never come back

      • Towanda Grad 1978

        A town full of ignorant Towanda Pools….inbreds from the time of Marie Antoinette. Jacking up prices for the drillers? How about displacing residents who already lived in the confines of that podunk town? Let’s triple the rents…..and if you can’t pay, well then too bad for you. I imagine all the positive speakers on here are the idiots who had wells put in. Wait until cancer riddles your body or the water can be set to flame right out of the faucets. You deserve what you get.

  • Jprovi218

    You know…it’s the same arguement with PA. people that I’ve heard ever since I was growing up there. It’s a constant battle between the “haves & the have not’s” Everyone was in the same boat in these towns until gas was drilled. Those who have gas on their land are paid for it. Those who dont have gas just bitch and hold out their hands asking for their share. The roads are bad, there is traffic, spills, rude out of towners, Why does the truck have to go down my street/road. What a bunch of pussies! The people who raped the workers with high rent and crappy service will smile and go to the bank until it dries up and then they will get on the same wagon as the rest of the bitchy people.
    Arrrggghhh! I am only 53 years old..but I sure thought the people of PA would have adapted and changed their ways after the steel mills closed…I guess not! I’m sure once the Steeler’s lost their bid for the playoffs..several of you burned your shirts and became Raven’s fans….lol

    • Beatrice Weller

      Dear Jprovi218 — i don’t care if they get Billions or Millions for their land, — i just don’t want poisonious cancer causing chemicals being blasted into our soil and getting into our water supply — or anyone elses water –Period.

  • Stacey Griffith

    This is so sad to me, I have been going to Towanda for most of my childhood and My mother has chosen to retire there because of it’s small town appeal and beauty. It has always been a place I’d escape the hussle and bussle of city life. It isn’t that they are so far behind the times but maybe that they just chose to keep a certain, more simplistic way of living. Now it is traffic ridden, crowded and everyday staples are over priced. Summer days spend jumping off the rope swing into the creek along Airport road just isn’t the same with the big rigs rumbling over the recently expanded bridge. This summer while visiting I noticed the coyote have seemed to be forced closer to residential areas as well. As far as t not being a friendly place, it had always been, but as its been proven time and time again, money changes things.

  • Changehappens

    I would just like to say, that I moved to Towanda 27 years ago to raise my children. I raised four of them in this small town. All of them have gone to college and made good life’s for themselves. My husband and I have worked very hard to make that happen, all without the Gas Industries help. When they first appeared on our door step six years ago, who would have thought that things were about to change in such a big way. Our small town has now become very populated with people from all sorts of other places in this country. It has brought more jobs and money to this town then anyone could have predicted. Yes there is a lot of risk in drilling I have learned, especially health hazards. From my personal experiences they are very careful not to harm the land and leave things in a nice state. The roads are nicer then they have ever been. There is no reason for someone in this area to be without work anymore, if you are willing to get out of bed and show up. The land owners in the area are making a nice amount of money on there properties. The town people are not, for they never ventured out and invested in any land from years past. The price of land in this area now has become untouchable. Yes it’s all changed. Some are happy, some not so happy. That’s how it is. As for rent to the people who live here, it is not so easy to find at a reasonable price. Yes that is sad. The owners have gone hog wild with the cost of rent! They know that is how they can finally make good money on housing. If you research out of this area, you will find that it’s now pretty much what the rest of neighboring states are getting. This whole country has become an expensive place to live. Just check/out the prices of everything you need to live. It takes two incomes to raise a family these days. My point being is that things change and you have no choice! I don’t mind the Gas Industry being here, yes it’s become a busy place but, at least our children can live and raise there children in our small town with opportunity instead of leaving to find a new place to live. Everyone is entitled to an opinion about our small town. It has good points and bad points, and everyone has a choice on where to live there lives. So that being said, enough bad things said about our small town. The people that live here are mostly nice, and the ones that come to work, do just that, and go on there way. I owned and operated a small business in Towanda and met a lot of nice folks from all sorts of places. They were happy to be apart of the change and to be able to support there families back home. Change has happened here and it’s only the beginning.

    • Beatrice Weller

      Dear Changehappens.I would like to say that Greed at any cost is “evil” and “deadly”. The poison they our putting in our water is “murder” +_ “pain and suffering,” from the cancer & other agony from the slow death we & our children & our childrens childrens will get from gas & filty oil fumes– Not to mention that they will not even release the names of some of the chemicals they use;”as if the ones we know about are’nt bad ENOUGH ! –Those Greedy Landowners will take their money & run –Leaving everyone else to suffer.. (GREED is route to all EVIL)

  • Janise Grubber

    Towanda is still an inbreed dump with rich mexicans running around speaking spanish , I’m getting rich in south Towanda running a day care for their inbread brat’s

  • Terry Vanderpuke

    I make more money stealing Copper from stupid neighbors than most make on Gas well’s

    • jaintn

      Good for you Terry. Most homosexual meth addicts have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

      • Terry Vanderpuke

        No one gets any ” free-lunches” from me, just a slug from my AK-47

  • Janise Grubber

    My Day Care in “pool-town” makes me rich, after all these Gas workers will always pay my high prices, same with the trailer I get high rent from

  • Lack of jobs

    If you are looking for some place to move to it’s Houtzdale, Pa. The coal indusrty is dead and so is the gas industry. It has a 17% unemployment rate and home values have fallen to aroud $30,00 to $40,000. The average income is $24,00 for a family of four. The local school district now has less than 850 students and people are leaving every day. It has lots of clean air and water. I just don’t know if anyone will be left here in the next 10 years. I invite you to come and enjoy. I doubt it if you will find a job.

  • Rapture Forums

    We need more drilling in the U.S. to cut down on foreign dependence for oil. Anything that helps us cut down on foreign dependence is good for us in the long term.

  • someone

    I still cannot find a job in towanda [why you say?unless you want to do 12 to 15 hour shifts with one day off . Lots of jobs are rotating shifts with no sleep pattern . craftmaster/ dupont/. Gobal tungsten powders with mandatory 19 days on 2 days off shift.. Low pay dandy mart .or part time garbage jobs or you can cut up a cow a taylor beef in wyalusing or proctor and gamble 12 hour rotating shifts or arrow untied very low union pay. Where did the good paying jobs 7 to 3.30 or 8.00 to 4.30 or 9 to 5.00 jobs went .an eight hour normal shift or ten hour normal shift. I tell you where the jobs like went. they are deleted and given to scab temp services so low pay again or they have been absorbed into the system or pass off to someone else to do the job. Its called multitasking[ when people do this they screw up all the time its been proven a fact]]on the other hand the boss says do or get fired your choice .at will employment in pa that is the problem. employers got you over a barrel and they know it

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