In 2010, Gasland, a documentary by Josh Fox, explored the impact of natural gas drilling, specifically the practice of slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing. To the lay person, it’s known as fracking.
Gasland was attacked by the natural gas industry, and thanks to those attacks, people became more aware and started to educated themselves about the hazards and risks.
Gasland also did something else; it brought a small rural town in northeast Pennsylvania into the limelight. That town was Dimock.
While media attention on Dimock has faded, we must keep in mind there are many other “Dimocks” out there.
Small towns, where the gas drillers are denying responsibility.
Small towns being ignored by the PA Department of Environmental Protection.
Small towns, where real people are without clean water through no fault of their home.
Small towns where the American Dream of real people have turned into nightmares.
We are going to look at Franklin Forks, Susquehanna County PA. Energy-in-Depth (EID), the public relations campaign of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) describes Franklin Forks as being a few miles up the road from Dimock and almost impossible to find on a map.
The Manning family’s water well began erupting like a geyser not long after drilling began on nearby properties. Other families complained about black or cloudy water suddenly appearing.
The driller, WPX, a spin-off corporation of the Williams Company, maintained it wasn’t their fault, they blamed it on a faulty water well pump, and pointed to high naturally occurring methane in the waterways around Franklin Forks – in other words the methane was already there. WPX did not provide an explanation about black and cloudy water, nor why these problems suddenly appeared shortly after WPX began drilling.
The DEP quickly absolved WPX of responsibility, and instead blamed it on nearby Salt Springs State Park well water which contains naturally occurring methane. It is important to note that NO BASELINE TESTING of resident’s water wells was done prior to drilling.
It is also important to note the Mannings and other families had no problems with methane, black or cloudy water prior to drilling. Furthermore, the naturally occurring methane in the Salt Springs State Park water is well known, so why weren’t there extra precaution taken while drilling?
DEP finally did a water test in early 2012 and found barium at twice the allowed limit. Methane concentrates were extremely high and posed a risk of explosion by collecting in cellars, and other small spaces within the residences.
Methane is naturally occurring in the area at ~1 mg/L (milligrams per liter), methane concentrations below 10 mg/L are generally considered safe. Methane levels higher than 28 mg/L pose an explosive risk. One of the water tests showed methane at 83.1 mg/l.
WPX installed replacement water tanks (water buffaloes) and began providing homes with water after being asked by the DEP to help. WPX likes to think it’s a good neighbor.
WPX also began its own investigation into the water quality at the homes and potential sources of contamination, including a natural methane seep at nearby Salt Springs State Park.
Again, it is well known a natural methane “seep” was present prior to drilling, so why weren’t precautions taken to minimize the risk of the seep contaminating nearby private water wells?
WHERE WE ARE NOW
WPX sought and obtained a court order to allow them access to two properties in Franklin Forks for the purpose of removing two family’s water equipment: water tanks (“water buffaloes”), pumps, heaters, sheds, hoses, plumbing, etc, on Dec 16th 2013.
On Monday December 16, 2013, two families will be without clean water. On Monday December 16, 2013, two families will no longer be able to live in their homes. On Monday December 16, 2013, the homes of two families will be uninhabitable.
The good neighbors of WPX had previously stopped delivering water, and now they want their equipment back. The court order is being challenged.
The families were surviving by buying their own water and through small donations to help them out. They need approximately $2,500 each to replace the equipment that WPX will be removing on Monday December 16, 2013 should the challenge fail.
If you would like to help by making a small donation:
Send checks or money orders to :
20784 State Road 29,
Montrose, Pa. 18801
Tax Deductible donations online at: TinyURL.com/WaterReliefForNEPA
Surplus donations will go to other families in Dimock, Auburn, Springville area who’ve suffered with contaminated water since 2008.
To see how widespread the problem with natural gas drilling is, please take a moment and read List of the Harmed, (updated November 20, 2013).
©2013 by Dory Hippauf