Shortly after the Manning family of Franklin Township, Pa., allowed fracking on its land, they noticed problems with their water supply.
“Our well started erupting like Old Faithful, like a geyser,” said Tammy Manning.
Starting in December 2011, “When it would erupt, the water would turn a grey color with particles floating in it.”
The Mannings’ property is one of a number of properties in Pennsylvania leased by the natural gas company Williams for the right to drill for natural gas.
After the Mannings’ water was tested by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), she and her husband were told not to use their water for drinking and to shower with the doors open so fumes could escape.
Unable to use the water in their own home for everyday necessities such as drinking, cooking and cleaning, the Mannings also no longer can enjoy fishing or gardening.
“We don’t use the water for ourselves or our animals, or even the plants anymore,” Manning said, describing her running water as sometimes changing from a dark grey to a yellow color, and sometimes giving off a sulfur smell. “Any fish my husband catches, we won’t be keeping for food anymore because the creek behind the house is contaminated.”
The Mannings have filed a lawsuit against Williams. At the time of the interview in spring 2012, the family had lived in Franklin Township for less than two years. They had hoped to find rural life relaxing, however, they are trapped, as they cannot sell their house because it doesn’t have a clean water supply.
“It’s ugly now,” Manning said. “My husband likes to hunt and I like to garden, and it’s just not what we’d hoped for.” —Marissa DeSantis, ’12
The Manzers live in a small, old-fashioned white house standing in a muddy, wooded area on the edge of I-81 near South Harford, Pa. Chickens run freely through the yard, and rickety wooden porch stairs lead to a modest living room.
The elderly couple inhabiting the house is 69-year-old Jesse Manzer, a funny, welcoming, nearly toothless man, and his wife, an obviously avid fan of daytime television and old films on VHS: In their small living room, two shelves are loaded with tapes, most noticeably E.T. and Dirty Dancing.
The Manzers’ lives have recently been turned upside-down because of fracking. Instead of the view of creeks and mountains they used to enjoy, they now stare directly through their living room window and see drilling rig #538.
According to Jesse Manzer, they were completely uninformed that the rig was being put up — they drew their own conclusions after seeing trucks roll in for four straight days.
Not long afterwards, they noticed problems with their water supply.
“People did come to test the water, and it was milky and bubbly,” he said. “If you have an old water pump like we did, the contaminated water ruins it. You can also smell battery acid from outside.”
Standing in her parents’ kitchen, looking across the street at the massive rig, the Manzers’ daughter, Jessica, said that the water in her own house nearby had also become contaminated. However, she welcomed the financial windfall in the form of payments for the right to frack on her land.
“The land was just sitting there not being used,” she said.
She explained that there have been multiple tests for water in the area, and believes the company is taking good responsibility for the drilling and its outcomes. — Lisa Henderson, ’12, and Kristy Grinere, ’13
Seamus McGraw, author of the non-fiction book on fracking The End of Country, was torn. After agonizing, he decided to lease the mineral rights on his mother’s property in northeastern Pennsylvania to Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas company.
McGraw was aware of the controversy over the technique for extracting natural gas, but he decided to cooperate, hoping that natural gas drilling would help America in the battle for energy independence.
Although he does not regret his choice, he has been frustrated by roadblocks and ironies in the process itself. A well adjacent to his property is not entirely American — a quarter of it is owned by Statoil ASA, a Norwegian-based company. In addition, the vehicles and equipment used at the well to extract the natural gas are entirely fueled with diesel, which he sees as furthering America’s addiction to foreign oil and contributing to air pollution.
He worries that by the time the U.S. has the natural gas ready to export, it may no longer be needed around the world because other countries will catch up. McGraw said there were only 10 plants in this country capable of dealing with natural gas, and of those, only two had the ability to export it at the time of the interview. He blamed bureaucracy and the lack of regulations for these problems.
“Corporations are not people,” he said. “They are machines, profit-generating machines.”
Nevertheless, McGraw does not second-guess his decision to lease his mineral rights to Chesapeake Energy.
“I’d do it again,” he said. — Joe Petrizzo, ’13
For a more in depth understanding of fracking and its effects on the environment, visit www.theridernews.com.