Carol French believes the cloudy liquid from her faucet in rural Pennsylvania is due to fracking beneath her farm.
Evaluate fracking risks, rewards before signing a lease
Acloudy stream of water courses from the kitchen faucet in Carol French’s rural Bradford County, Pa., farmhouse. French says her water is contaminated as a result of horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, conducted during the past few years to capture the rich pockets of natural gas beneath her small dairy farm. Today, concerned for their health, the family no longerdrinks their water.
Reports of health and environmental issues such as those the French family has experienced are not uncommon in areas where fracking has been implemented. Yet the oil and natural gas companies that conduct hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania say such negative reports have nothing to do with them and the extraction processes they employ. Furthermore, the state has no confirmed cases of private well contamination that resulted from fracking, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For her part, Carol French says she wishes she had never signed the five-year lease Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation offered her six years ago. While she ultimately pocketed $13,600 as a result of the decision, she says the profit came at too high a cost.
Ronald Coyer, an attorney in Slippery Rock, Pa., says the research he’s seen regarding fracking indicates it is not the process itself that contaminates water supplies. Rather, surface spills and workers using sloppy or unsafe practices most often contribute to the problems, he says.
"If it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and it’s 20°F out and that thing’s leaking over there, well, we’ll get to it," he says. "Sad to say, but that’s human nature, and there are going to be companies that do that. We haven’t seen any of that around here as of yet, but we probably will. The more they drill, the more likely that those things will happen."
In hindsight. Carolyn Knapp says health and environmental issues do exist as a result of fracking. Like French, Knapp and her husband signed leases with Chesapeake Energy Corporation six years ago to extract natural gas from the soils beneath their organic dairy farm near Towanda, Pa. It
seemed like a good deal when they signed two leases on 300-plus acres. One lease was for $85 per acre and the second was for $750 an acre.
Knapp had a change of heart when hundreds of large trucks weighed down with drilling equipment began to rumble past her family’s home daily on the narrow gravel road designed for sedans and pickups.
"Until it happens in your community, it is hard to understand the impact it has on your lifestyle," Knapp says. "Just getting to work, getting out on the roads, is difficult."
Coyer says the amount of water he sees being hauled to and from well sites is mind-boggling. He asks the question: If a well site requires 8 million gallons of water for the fracking process, how many trucks does it take to move that water at 4,000 gal. a truck? "The numbers get pretty oppressive at that point," he says.
Worse yet are the pollution, air, soil and water issues fracking creates, Knapp says. "The list of risks involved with this process was not disclosed to us," she contends.
- November 2012