No Rest for Retirees: Fractivism Becomes a Full-Time Job

No Rest for Retirees: Fractivism Becomes a Full-Time Job by Susan Phillips, August 29, 2012, State Impact NPR
“I’m mind­ing my own busi­ness at home,” says Rick. “And this car comes, cou­ple guys get out. [They say] we’re here to test your water because they’re going to drill a dis­posal well on the other side of the hill. And right away he says, if your water gets con­t­a­m­i­nated the Brady Town­ship water sup­ply is right down there on the other side of the tracks.” Clearfield County was once coal coun­try, where strip min­ing led to pol­luted water sup­plies. So, a good por­tion of the Town­ship relies on treated munic­i­pal water sys­tems. But the Atkin­sons and their neigh­bors have really good well water. And they don’t want to lose it. So Mar­i­anne got to work. She filed Right to Know requests with the Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion and the EPA. They got rejected. She filed again. She spoke to local offi­cials, who at the time had no idea of the plan. She started research­ing deep injec­tion wells, find­ing a report about the fea­si­bil­ity of these wells in Penn­syl­va­nia dat­ing back to 1972. She’s become some­what of an expert on deep injec­tion wells and the state’s geology. “It was like, oh I have to learn stuff really fast,” says Mar­i­anne. “It’s like being back in school again.”

Mar­i­anne is afraid her well water could be ruined if a com­pany starts truck­ing in mil­lions of gal­lons of frack water from Mar­cel­lus Shale nat­ural gas drilling sites all over the state. The waste water would get pumped at high pres­sure deep under­ground from a site on her neighbor’s land, just 900 feet from her own water well. She’s orga­nized a post card cam­paign for her neigh­bors to inform their elected offi­cials and the EPA that they want notice when and if the per­mit for the deep injec­tion well is completed. She started check­ing the EPA’s pub­lic notices every day. And one day last Decem­ber, she didn’t like what she saw. “My eyes popped open,” says Mar­i­anne. “I read: Clearfield County, injec­tion well failure.” A deep injec­tion well oper­ated by another com­pany, Exco Resources, had leaked, but the com­pany con­tin­ued to oper­ate the well with­out inform­ing the EPA. … “In the begin­ning I felt some degree of safety,” says Rick. “Because in the per­mit it says if there was a fail­ure of mechan­i­cal integrity, they would notify the EPA within 24 hours. So it was very dis­turb­ing to me that a basic fun­da­men­tal oper­a­tional fail­ure occured and they didn’t notify the EPA. And not only that, they kept injecting.”

“It has taken over our lives. I’m sup­posed to be retired now,” says Mar­i­anne. “And this is like my full-time job that I’m not get­ting paid for.” Wor­ried about los­ing their water sup­ply, and watch­ing their prop­erty val­ues plum­met, the Atkin­sons have become part of a grow­ing, decen­tral­ized grass­roots move­ment, work­ing from their kitchen tables, to put the brakes on nat­ural gas devel­op­ment. [Emphasis added]

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