FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: A GRINCH CHRISTMAS IN FRANKLIN FORKS, PA?
Franklin Forks ~ Two Susquehanna County families fear they will face the holiday season without water after learning that a federal court judge has given a gas drilling company permission to come onto their property and remove the "water buffalos" and other equipment that have supplied their homes with water for the past twenty months.
This is the just latest twist in a protracted dispute between families living in the small rural community of Franklin Forks, PA, and WPX Energy, an Oklahoma-based gas drilling company. In late 2011, several area residents complained that their water suddenly turned gray or black after WPX drilled nearby shale gas wells. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection investigated and fined WPX for defective cement casings on the two gas wells nearest the impacted homes, but it did not link the defective well casings to the contaminated water wells.
Follow up tests of the home water wells found elevated levels of chlorides, iron, aluminum and Total Dissolved Solids. Barium, a substance known to cause cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory failure and gastrointestinal dysfunction was present in levels more than double the primary maximum contaminant level set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The DEP also found high levels of methane and warned homeowners that there was a risk of fire or explosion. In response to an appeal from the DEP, WPX agreed to vent the water wells of three homes to release the buildup of methane, install water buffalos, and supply the families with water.
Then, more than a year later, in April 2013, the PA DEP appeared to exonerate WPX when it released a statement saying that the contamination of the water wells "cannot be attributed to natural gas drilling activity." The DEP based its conclusion on an isotopic analysis of the methane in the water, which showed that it was "naturally occurring" and "not of the same origin as the natural gas in the nearby gas well." Critics have blasted the DEP report, and point to the fact that peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that faulty cement casings can cause methane from shallow formations to contaminate water wells1. Tammy Manning, who lives in one of the homes with contaminated water says the DEP report fails to explain why her water "changed all at once."
WPX Energy is being sued by the Hadlicks and the Mannings, the two families that still rely on water buffalos installed by the company. A spokesperson for WPX acknowledged that by removing the equipment from their homes the company won't be recovering material assets that have significant monetary value; rather the action seems to be motivated by its irritation with the lawsuit and by the fact that activists and celebrities have made Franklin Forks a focal point of the national anti-fracking movement. Still it's doubtful that WPX will be able to remove the water supplies without attracting even more unwanted attention -- the court order specifies that the materials must be removed on Monday, December 16, and reporters and supporters of the impacted families are bound to be on hand to record the event.
Last minute negotiations have failed to resolve the situation. On Tuesday the drilling company offered to sell the two water supply systems for a total of $3,600, but the families say they cannot afford to buy them. Supporters are attempting to raise money to furnish the families with new equipment so they will not remain without water over the holidays. Donations can made at TinyURL.com/WaterReliefFPAorNE.
WPX has said workers will remove the equipment between 9 AM and 2 PM. Supporters intend to gather in Franklin Forks at 9 AM on Monday.
1."...faulty cement can allow methane and other gases from intermediate layers to flow into, up, and out of the annulus into shallow drinking water layers. In such a scenario, the geochemical and isotopic compositions of stray gas contamination would not necessarily match the target shale gas, and no fracturing chemicals or deep formation waters would be expected, because a direct connection to the deepest layers does not exist;" Page 5 Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction By Robert B. Jackson, et al., June, 2013
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