In the low-income community of the Woodlands, in Butler County, Pennsylvania the water is still undrinkable. After seven years, residents of the hardscrabble community water is still contaminated.
For years, the water taps ran orange, brown and black. The fizzy, oily water began emitting the smell of rotten eggs. Rex Energy and the state Department of Environmental Protection have denied any connection between local water quality problems and drilling activity.
Rex Energy, based in PA is engaged in the production, exploration and development of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids. Rex Energy extracts this gas through a process of hydrofracking. By injecting of a mixture of chemicals and water into wells, the shale rock beneath the surface breaks apart the rock and gas is released. Hydrofracking is one of the primary ways of extracting fuel.
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At the time of the contamination, the state DEP concluded that benzene, cyanide and other toxic chemicals discovered in wells at The Woodlands was not be linked to the fracking taking place nearby. DEP officials concluded that the increased demand for water stressed the local aquifer that supplied groundwater to the residents' wells, however the water supply impacts were not attributable to Rex Energy.
The EPA has concluded that pre-drilling and post-drilling samples at two locations near the Rex Energy site showed similar drinking water quality. A team of scientists from Duquesne University, have found significant changes in water quality in the community since drilling began.
One of the gravest threats posed by fracking is the contamination of drinking water wells, vital sources of water for many rural communities. Though the industry has attempted to obscure evidence of well water contamination by fracking. A ProPublica investigation found that the residents of Dimock, PA wells were contaminated by nearby fracking operations.
The residents of Woodlands come from low income families who do not have the resources to fight a lengthy legal battle against the fracking industry. Those cases that have been filed have already gone on for years.
In spite of the evidence, the oil and gas industry routinely claims that fracking has never resulted in water contamination. Rex Energy continues to deny any wrongdoing related to contamination of the Butler County community.
On May 18, 2018 of this year, Rex Energy filed for Ch.11 and is expected to exit bankruptcy in early November. Residents of this Pennsylvania Hardscrabble community may very well never see any compensation.
Their water often still runs fizzy and sometimes comes out murky gray. As a result Woodlands residents must get water from the local water bank, but it’s not near enough water. They are forced to spend untold thousands on bottled water. They are understandably angry and they want their “water back”!
Numerous shale gas court cases in the region have been filed in Butler County. And in one case, the court invoked Pennsylvanians' constitutional right to "clean air, pure water and to the preservation . . . of the environment."
This is unfortunately an alarming omen of how our water supplies are being threatened. All over the country and around the world, our water is being exploited and contaminated. Don’t let this go on any more. Take a stand for water.
To help the people of Woodlands you can donate to their water bank. Send checks to Water for Woodlands, c/o White Oak Springs Presbyterian Church, 102 Shannon Road, Renfrew, PA, 16053.
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Many cities report that their tap water has high levels of lead, nitrates, arsenic or other pollutants. Today, as it stand many communities simply have no way of knowing if their tap water is safe or contaminated. As there is no testing or monitoring that takes place.