Anna Hansen – Friends of the Harmed

Shale Stories

40 Year Battle With Water Contamination Due to Drilling

In 1974, the U.S. Congress passed a law called “The Safe Drinking Water Act”, or SDWA. In the same year, Congress also passed the “Clean Air Act”. In 2005 the Bush and Cheney administration exempted only the oil and gas industry from both laws, which is known as the Halliburton Loop Hole.

Let’s skip ahead to 2010 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Judy Armstrong Stiles and her husband were settling down in their home overlooking the Susquehanna River. Stiles described their environment as clean, quiet, and their “Garden of Eden”. However little did she know, all of this would change in January 2010, with a knock on the door from Chesapeake Energy.

Chesapeake Energy, along with popular names in the drilling industry such as Range Resources, and Falcon Drilling, were on a lengthy campaign throughout Western Pennsylvania, urging people to sign leases to their land with promises of clean energy, little environmental impact, and more jobs. Stiles and her husband, like many others, signed the lease.

But then the drilling started. And along with it came lengthy health issues for the Stiles family, most notably coming from the contamination of their water. Lead, methane, propane, arsenic, and uranium were only a few of the contaminants found in their water. Judy and her husband’s worst fears were coming true, and their Garden of Eden was no more.

Unfortunately for many others like the Stiles Family, this problem was not a new one. Published recently in the New York Times, was a 1987 report by the EPA to Congress stating that there were cases of groundwater contamination in West Virginia due to hydraulic fracturing. In conclusion to the report, the EPA stated that “There are an estimated 1,200,000 abandoned oil or gas wells in the United States. . .Lack of plugging or improper plugging of a well may allow native brines or injected wastes to migrate to freshwater aquifers or to come to the surface through wellbore.” However, despite the fact that the EPA warned Congress about possible health implications almost 30 years ago, the health of thousands of American people is going virtually unnoticed because of the dominance of gas drilling companies in areas like West Virginia.

On a state and local level, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is following suit, even 30 years later. An article posted to a local newspaper’s website claims that a DEP employee used a “Suite Code” which would limit the results from the lab to the DEP office, then to the hands of the property owner. In a test for 24 metals possibly contaminating water, only 8 were reported back to the homeowner.

However this past week, the Auditor General for Pennsylvania has made a motion to audit the DEP and it’s dealings with the oil and gas industry. In an issued report to the Governor of Pennsylvania, Eugene A. DePasquale states, “With respect to transparency in its monitoring of shale gas development, while DEP is making incremental changes, these changes have failed to keep pace with the industry’s expansion and the public’s demands. As detailed in our report, accessing DEP data is challenging. DEP must improve how it provides access and conveys reliable information to the public.” In the next few months, PA residents affected by fracking are hopeful this audit will unveil the harmful affects the gas industry has had on their daily lives.

This dishonest management of information carried out by both the national and local government are part of the reason why people like Judy Armstrong Stiles and various other families around the U.S. are not receiving fair treatment in association with the contamination of their water.

Although politicians in the U.K. are stating that there have been few indications of leakage due to fracking, it would be prudent of them to take a long look at what is happening in the shale fields of the U.S. as of late and recognize that the negative impacts far outweigh any benefits brought about by hydraulic fracturing.

Anna Hansen – Friends of the Harmed.