A documentary that revisits the tumultuous and chaotic year of 1983—when hundreds of protesters were arrested in the tiny Bucks County village of Point Pleasant—will premiere at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, at the County Theater, 20 E. State St., Doylestown.
The film, titled “Uprising Along the Delaware: How the Point Pleasant Water Project United Thousands in Civil Disobedience,” tells the story of the protests that erupted as work commenced on the massive water supply project.
The Point Pleasant water project, originally planned in the 1960s, was designed to draw some 95 million gallons a day from the Delaware River to relieve drought conditions in Bucks and Montgomery counties and supply supplemental cooling water to the planned Limerick nuclear power plant near Pottstown in Montgomery County. Work on the project finally commenced in early 1983.
The film tells the story of how an uprising escalated out of a community that grew alarmed by the project and its implications: The expected environmental damage to the Delaware River, the widespread housing and commercial development the project would spark in rural sections of the two counties, and the provision of water to a nuclear power plant at a time when the safety of nuclear power was very much in question following the reactor meltdown at the Three Mile Island power plant near Harrisburg.
The film was produced by Lanny Morgnanesi, the former editor of the Doylestown Intelligencer and director of communications at Delaware Valley University. The film is based on two chapters focused on the “Pump” in the 2021 book “Notes on Bucks County: Reflections on Politics in Pennsylvania’s Most Curious and Captivating Collar County,” authored by Andy Warren and Hal Marcovitz.
Warren is a former Bucks County commissioner who cast a key vote to build the Pump in the early 1980s. Marcovitz is a former Bucks County-based journalist who covered the Pump and the ensuing protests for many years during his career in journalism. Warren and Marcovitz both assisted in the production of the documentary and are among the many individuals interviewed in the film.
Among the others who are interviewed in the film are Tracy Carluccio, Walt McRee, Rich Myers, Jeff Morgan, Marie Coia, Bernadette Schaffhausen and Bruce Katsiff, leaders of the environmental group Del-AWARE Unlimited which organized the protests and became a major political force in Bucks County during the 1980s. Others interviewed in the film include Peter Kostmayer, a Pump opponent who represented Bucks County in the U.S. Congress for much of the 1980s, and Anthony J. Bellitto Jr., executive director of the North Penn Water Authority, which currently oversees operation of the water supply project. The film also includes many still photos of the era shot by news photographers as well as video footage of the protests featuring, among others, appearances along the Delaware River by anti-war activist Abbie Hoffman and folk singer Pete Seeger.
Throughout much of 1983 hundreds of Del-AWARE activists were arrested during the protests in Point Pleasant and elsewhere. Dozens were imprisoned. For several months during the year many activists staged an occupation of the Bucks County Courthouse. On one hot and steamy day in July, one Del-AWARE activist—to show his opposition to the Pump—dumped tons of manure on Main Street in Doylestown near the entrance of the county courthouse.
In the spring of 1983 a nonbinding referendum on the Pump resulted in a clear majority of Bucks County voters casting ballots against the project. And that fall, the Republican administration of county commissioners that approved the project was ousted at the polls. A Democratic administration opposed to the project took office, but its efforts to kill the Pump ultimately failed as the courts eventually ruled the project must be completed. Today, the Point Pleasant water project continues to supply water for residential and commercial needs in Bucks and Montgomery counties.
“This local, independent documentary is an attempt to tell a story that, after 40 years, needs to be retold,” said Morgnanesi. “It includes archival footage showing the almost daily police-citizen confrontations out at the tiny village of Point Pleasant, and it shares the gripping, engaging, vivid memories of those who were there. Watching the film, it’s hard to believe this actually happened.”
Advance tickets to the screening are available through this website: https://countytheater.org/films/uprising-along-the-delaware. Admission is free for members of the County Theater and $5 for members of the public.
A panel discussion will follow the screening. Members of the panel who will participate during the session include Morgnanesi, who will moderate, as well as Warren, Marcovitz, McRee and Carluccio.
Following the screening, Warren and Marcovitz will be available in the lobby of the County Theater to sign copies of their book. Find information about the book and film at the website notesonbuckscounty.com.