The oil and gas industry was already here when Joe and Dawn bought their 4-acre property 18 months ago, but so was their clean water. “We bought the property knowing we had fresh well water, supposedly fed by artisan springs,” Joe says. “Our whole property is surrounded by gas wells, storage tanks, a pipe line, the works.” Of course, Joe and Dawn knew the structures were here and they knew there was some gas activity before buying, but not to this extent.
“If we look out our front door, there is a storage tank facility to the right, in the woods,” says Joe, “and straight across the street from us there is a well with a working pump in the middle of a field. There is also a transmission shed at the front of our property. But within the past year, this booming industry now has helicopters overhead, gas trucks up and down our street and there is hydraulic fracking everywhere.”
Joe says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ran tests on their well water a few months ago and confirmed it does indeed contain methane gas. “They told us that you can light the water on fire when the water spits - because methane gas gets in the line, it causes the water to spit a pretty big fire ball. Naturally, we can’t use the water for consumption anymore.
“The oil and gas officials are finding very little leakage in our well at the top but we have a 285-ft. well and the methane is seeping in at the bottom, so the pressure of the water doesn’t allow it to escape out the top: there is nowhere for it to go except through our pumps when we turn on the faucet. And when it compresses in the hot water tank, it starts spitting out of the tap.”
Joe and Dawn are also concerned about their health. “Everyone living here has breathing issues,” says Dawn. “My migraine headaches have intensified and now I have arthritic problems, like I’ve aged 10 years since moving here. We’ve been bathing in methane!”
Joe and Dawn called some of the gas companies to determine whether there were any problems on their end. Negative. They sent letters to state representatives but haven’t got a word back. The Department of Natural Resources told the oil and gas companies to check everything within a one-mile radius of their house, but they are only able to check on the surface.
“They don’t have a clue what is going on underneath,” Joe explains. “The Department told us to install some kind of aeration system to the tune of about $6,000 and put in carbon monoxide and methane detectors. Meanwhile, we have to truck in water for cooking and drinking. Luckily, a few family members who live close by have city water - we fill 20-gallon jugs every few days.”
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“If our well wasn’t so deep, it probably wouldn’t be so bad,” Joe adds. And because of the methane gas, we cannot treat the well, so bacteria is now growing in it. Around these parts, the average well depth is 120 ft. We have been given an estimate of $6,500 to drill a well of that depth, money we don’t have. I would like to see the gas companies paying for this. In the end, all that really matters is that my family has fresh water.”