Misery: Gas companies as neighbors, the lies they tell, the arms they twist, and the hellish consequences


From a follow-up interview conducted by e-mail and used with permission:

Hi David,

Thanks for coming up to Ithaca on Friday.

On a separate note, would you mind if I share your experience with fracking with people in Ithaca?  If it’s okay with you for me to do so, I’d also like to confirm what you told me:

1.       Pollution of your well (two wells?). How did this show up?

Bohlander:  We have two wells on the farm (190 acres).  We had a detailed baseline water testing done on both before any of the gas activity happened in our area.  We subsequently have had another 6 or so tests done on these wells.  It is crucial to have certified baseline testing done prior to any activity by gas companies or they will claim there is no proof they are the cause and argue it was a pre-existing condition.  We also retained a very competent hydrologist (who has the gas company clients) who was the plaintiffs hydrologist in the Dimock, PA contamination (highlighted in the movie Gasland).  The well for the barn/and original farmhouse was so contaminated with methane they thought it would explode so the well pump was disconnected for six months and water was trucked in by the gas companies for the animals, and spring water for the humans!

2.       The operations end up being more extensive than anticipated.  The “pads” are large, and end up being used for other operations.

Bohlander:  Gas companies are major deceivers.  They do this many ways. One is using land agents that are not their employees so that they can claim “we never said that ..they did”

Most all the neighbors were told that the gas wells would be drilled, it would take 3 months or so, and then land would be restored to earlier state. In reality this is what happens. They excavate a pad obliterating the natural terrain, hauling in 100’s of trucks of stone, gravel, etc.  Once the pad is completed, they only drill 2-4 actual gas wells of what ultimately are likely going to be 12 or so on that pad.  They may not frack the drilled wells immediately, but wait sometimes a year.  The intention is to refrack over and over the same drilled wells.  They are now claiming there is 60 years of gas here.  Simultaneously, although not on all pads, they use the pads for other things such as equipment storage, frack water storage, and the worst:  frack water recycling which we have three in our neighborhood and 2 are 10 year permits (one is in the review process, 9 days to go).  These are REGIONAL frack water recycling operations bringing in dirty radioactive brine from 15 miles away or more, operating 24/7 with extensive noise, lights and traffic.  DEP is way behind on enforcement.  The neighbors are the enforcers, but it is David vs. Goliath (the gas companies).  After four years now, I have not seen one well pad restored back to the original state.  The stated plan by the gas companies is that there will be one well pad every 50 acres.  If the well pad is 10 acres, 20% of our surface land area will be a perpetual well pad.

3.       Extensive light pollution due to 24/7 operation.

Bohlander:  Re frack water recycling:  They power huge lights that light of the pads for the whole night.  They don’t use street electric but generators which contribute to the noise.  The trucks have large pumps that due to the volume of 5200 gallons per truck are large motors,  the trucks endlessly are using their backup safety beepers, horns for instructions to the ground crew, etc.  The three sites in our neighborhood will generate 800 trucks a day, 1600 with return trip passes.

The gas drilling when it goes on makes it almost impossible to sleep.  24/7, 7 days a week.

4.       Extensive trucking.

Bohlander: The gas companies make new roads over smaller older roads to accommodate their extensive traffic.  The state allows them to exceed the weight limit of the road by paying some fee or posting a bond.  The small country road in front of our farm is now elevated 3 feet in the air from normal ground level.  Certain roads are used as main arterial roads after they have been rebuilt –this happened to ours.  The trucks are hauling huge amounts of gravel, fill, fresh water for fracking and the dirty brine water out, as well as all the equipment for the drilling process.  Each well on the pad uses 5 million gallons of water.  60% flows back and is recycled, but removed from the site.  Our road was destroyed initially and impassible.  The gas companies then closed 10 mile stretches of the road for months at a time as they began rebuilding it.  One landowner could only get to and from his property with a four wheeler.

5.       Feel free to add any other relevant details.

Bohlander:  The gas companies have a very systematic playbook from the years of operating and polluting Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, etc.  They have two sides:  a friendly neighborly “give $35K to the fire company” and then a ruthless no-holds-barred side.   Three times they threatened that in 24 hours they were going to stop trucking in water for the cows in our barn unless we agreed to things.  These things include non-disclosure agreements, consent not to sue, etc.  Read the book Collateral Damage.  A lot of good environmental activist groups with websites and a lot of info.  Many have been to our house.  We were one of the first contaminated sites in this region from the drilling.

The public does not have any idea how bad the permanent environmental contamination is going to be.  There has been major barium and radiation poisoning with some already.  One not far from us is a 13-year- old girl with barium poisoning.  One of our immediate neighbors’ daughters is having clumps of hair fall out and his dog got sick and parakeet died from drinking his well water.  He abuts one of the frack water recycling sites.

Air pollution is the sleeping giant.   Each well pad on an ongoing basis emits things into the air (like toluene) as the gas goes through a preliminary filtering process at the well pad.  The absolutely worst are the gas compression stations for both noise and air pollution.

As you may know, the gas drilling is exempt from the Clean Water Act  — we actually are more apt to be fined if manure is spread on the road, than these major infractions the gas company are doing.  The environmental enforcement agencies only slap their wrists with fines.  Cost of doing business to gas companies –easier to just pay the fine.

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