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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meet the families whose lives have been ruined by gas drilling

AlterNet: Families in Pennsylvania explain how the dash for gas in the US is affecting their way of life

Cassie Spencer said she nearly “had a cow” when she returned home one day and saw her yard sprinkled with little red flags, like land mine markers in a war zone. Her 5-year-old daughter was playing in the midst of them. The family property had become a methane field.

Cassie believes Chesapeake gas wells 3,000 feet away that she never saw and doesn’t profit from had somehow been sending methane onto her property and into her water, and onto her neighbors’ properties on Paradise Road in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. Testing by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) traced the methane to Chesapeake wells but the company has denied responsibility.

The Spencers’ house, once valued at $150,000, is now worth $29,000. They have a methane monitor in their basement, a methane water filtration system in a backyard shed. They leave the door open when they take showers because with no bathroom windows they are afraid the house could blow up. Their neighbors were forced to evacuate once already because of high methane levels. In the middle of their yard, a shaft resembling a shrunken flagpole vents gas from their wellhead. Next to the doorway, a huge “water buffalo” storage container, a signature imprint of the collateral damage brought on by gas drilling, sits like a bloated child’s pool, filled with water, not fit for drinking.

“We moved here because we love the woods. We wanted to stay here our whole lives,” Cassie said, speaking of her family, her husband Scott and their two small children. “We’re not asking for a lot and now they’re taking it all away. In a million years, I never would have thought that people could do this and get away with it.”

All the damage occurred before the wells had even been “fracked,” which is set to happen later this year, and could make things even worse. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting a slurry of toxic chemicals, water and sand underground to release gas.
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