You Have to See It to Believe It: What It's Like to Have Fracking in Your Backyard
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Or, they can lose virtually everything, simply by living next door to someone who does lease. A story by WDTV reporter Zach Maskell gives a glimpse of what life is like for those people. Here’s his interview with Leanne Kiner who lives in Harrison County, West Virginia.
As if the disruptions to her quality of life and property values weren’t bad enough, Kiner’s water well became contaminated with unsafe levels of arsenic. She came home from work one day to find that, without any notice, someone working for the drilling company had disconnected her house from her well and installed a large “water buffalo” tank outside her home. Companies have been known to supply water tanks to affected residents (although usually with no admission of guilt) temporarily, and then leave the residents high and dry months or years down the road, even when water pollution problems persist.
Water is a big and multifaceted issue when it comes to fracking. Horizontal wells in the Marcellus can take upward of 5 million gallons of water during fracking. The wells can be fracked multiple times and there can be as many as 10 wells drilled on a single well pad. Multiple that by the thousands of wells that have been fracked thus far and that's a lot of water. All those hundreds of millions of gallons are often taken from local streams and creeks.
Then there is the wastewater to contend with, beginning with “drilling brine” which can contain high levels of salts, as well as arsenic, mercury, chromium and naturally occurring radioactive materials. What to do with this wastewater? “In the past, the drilling brine, with the cuttings have been put in pits, and after the solids are settled, the liquid has been sprayed on the land,” reports the West Virginia Sierra Club. “If too concentrated it kills vegetation, so even if sprayed thinly enough not to be deadly, it cannot be helping the land. The pits with remaining solids and plastic liner, if used, are buried on site.”
There is also the wastewater from the fracking process, and what's called "produced water," which flows from the well as it it producing. This can contain some of the toxic mix of chemicals (which most companies won’t reveal) that doesn’t remain underground. WV Sierra Club reports, “Because of the increased volume of wastewater to be disposed of from Marcellus wells, the WV DEP [Department of Enivornmental Protection] is asking drillers to dispose of it by injection in underground injection wells.” Much has been written about the potential risks (including earthquakes) from this manner of disposal and some companies have been nabbed for illegally dumping this toxic wastewater into storm drains, creeks and other waterways. And there have been reports of it dumped on roads.
On May 26, 2012 Christina Woods was mowing the lawn when a truck dumped water on her road for dust suppression. Christina and her husband Wayne had made numerous complaints about the road condition since fracking operations began. At times, the dust from constant truck traffic had made it impossible for them to even open their windows or sit outdoors. After the truck went by on May 26, Christina Woods immediately got a sore throat and her tongue felt numb. They quickly realized it wasn’t clean water that was being sprayed on the road. “The emergency response team didn’t come until three days after,” said Wayne, “and the morning they did the air quality samples it rained.” The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) did find that the company, Jay-Bee, had sprayed “wastewaters from natural gas production” on their road and issued a fine.