At an Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM) workshop, residents of Susquehanna County examine a map of the surrounding natural gas wells; each red dot represents a well. ALLARM’s mission is to empower communities affected by natural gas extraction with scientifically robust data to assist in the protection and restoration of their watershed. Much of the effort to scientifically document the effects of natural gas exploitation in the region has fallen upon residents.
Carolyn Knapp with her tap water and her pre-drill water test. The test proves the purity of her water prior to nearby drilling. “We don’t realize how dependent we are on water.”
July 4th celebrations, Montrose.
Lake Montrose provides water for the Montrose Borough, a population of approximately 800. The nearest
hydraulic fracturing well is less than one mile away. Montrose is located in Susquehanna County, where there have been 36 documented cases of contaminated water supplies and 762 drilling violations over the past four-years.
Rebecca Roter, 53, is the founder of Breath Easy Susquehanna County, a grassroots advocacy group focused on air quality and public health. “Air seems to be something that is unifying our community because everybody wants their family to breathe clean air and everybody understands the connection between public health and what we breathe. You can choose to not drink your water, but you cannot choose not to breathe.”
Gas trucks outside of Montrose. In an AP report it was found that drilling counties in Pennsylvania had a 4% increased in traffic fatalities between 2009 and 2013, while the rest of the state fell by 19%.
Frank Finan, 65, uses a highly specialized infrared camera in order to document the air pollution emitted from gas infrastructure. “It turns outs my life savings were for this. Even growing up I thought if I had the time and the money I would do something important. So the time came and I had the money because we saved up some money. So I spent about $55,000 to buy the camera.”
A drilling platform at dusk outside of Montrose. There are 1068 wells that have been or are in the process of being developed in Susquehanna County. Currently there are 1854 permits for additional wells in the region.
Jennifer Clifford, 46, owner of an organic farm in Montrose. “I think that if people knew about the upstream effects they would think twice. We knew nothing. All we knew were promises.” In 2009 gas companies began approaching the Montrose community. “Landmen” often show up at residents’ home unannounced with offers of quick wealth. The homeowner is offered drilling leases on their property with promises of low impact and high royalties. The Clifford’s turned down a one million dollar offer for leasing their land.
Farm outside of Stevensville, Pennsylvania.
Barbara Van Brunt, 79, lives on the outskirts of a farm her family acquired in the late 1800s. Her grandsons are now the 6th generation to inhabit the farm in Montrose. The nearest gas well is less than a half a mile away.
Tammy Manning, 46, and her granddaughter, Madison. In 2011 Manning noticed a grayish color in her water. After testing her indoor air quality for methane, Resource Environmental Management told her not to use the kitchen stove because of its proximity to the sink and to keep the bathroom door and window open. “Our bathroom is small enough where the gas could be contained and ignited if something happened, like turning on a hairdryer.”
Carolyn Knapp, 58, is an organic farmer. “My animals are my indicators, they are like my canaries. When I
realize that I am truly poisoning them, then I’m going to have stop operations. We still drink our milk, and I don’t ever want it to get to a point where I say I can’t drink it and ship it to someone else. Even if it is my
livelihood, my consciousness can’t allow me to do that.”
Patricia Farnelli points to her well cap she was told to remove due to the high methane levels underground. The Department of Environmental Protection Agency informed her that, “gas in the well could build up and blow up your well or your house.”
Contaminated tap water and local peaches, Meshoppen, Pennsylvania.
Swimming pool in front of gas extraction sites.
Ray Kemble, with his water tank which runs clean water through his home. Ray began working for the gas industry only after his water was contaminated. “I went to work for them as a mole, in order to expose what was going on.”
Tammy Manning is entirely reliant on imported water, Franklin Forks, Pennsylvania.
Vera Scroggins, 63, at the Montrose Courthouse. Scroggins has been documenting the gas drilling in her county since it began. In addition to keeping a written, verbal and photographic record, Scroggins is known for her citizen awareness tours, where she provides local tours to nearby gas infrastructure. After several years of documenting, and without warning, Cabot Oil and Gas Co. issued a lawsuit against Scroggins, for trespassing and causing safety risks. The trail concluded and Scroggins is permanently banned from gas sites; she avoided fines and possible jail time. Scroggins is well known in her community, she says, “At this point I am okay about being upfront. I have been upfront for all these years, so I am okay with doing it, even though it has caused conflict in my own family. My kids are embarrassed. They feel uncomfortable, my grandkids have experienced shunning in school, one daughter has left already and the other daughter would like to leave.”
Silver Lake, Pennsylvania.
Patricia Farnelli, 52, the mother of eight children, says that a few months after drilling began around her home, her children got sick with intense cramps to the point where they would end up on the floor with a sensation of burning inside and eventually vomiting. Farnelli has experienced changes with her bladder, issues with internal cysts and tumors, and, “a lot of pelvic and abdominal pain all the time”. The Farnellis no longer drink their water.
Robert Schumacher moved from New Jersey 30 years ago to get away from the noise of urban living. He now lives with several gas extraction pads surrounding his home. “We are going to miss the quiet.”
A surface impoundment outside of Montrose. The ponds contain exhausted fracture fluids and reservoir gas. The practice is known to release natural gas and volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere.
Kenneth Macialek, 58, lives with his wife Gerri Kane, 61. After experiencing illness, cysts, and irritated skin they invested in an atmospheric water generator or “drinkable air technology,” a machine that produces pure drinking water from the humidity in the air.
Rebecca Roter outside her home, Brooklyn, Pennsylvania.
Montrose Bible Conference.
William Ely, 19, grew up in Montrose. After high school, Ely began to work for natural gas companies. He has received no official training for the job. “It is actually one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, and you have a monkey on your shoulder always tapping you saying ‘you’re at risk’.”
Tammy Hadlick, 45, and her granddaughter. Hadlick’s water has been contaminated since 2011. Her household is connected to a 1,100-gallon water container, which she is responsible to refill each week. “What do I leave her? Nothing. I can’t even leave her this piece of property, why would I leave her here with bad water?”
Farm outside of Montrose.
Barbara Van Brunt acknowledges alternative energy solutions when she says that with, “the drilling, they are not going to stop till they have something to replace it. That is the solution.”