It was the beginning of May and it had been two months since I had last visited with the Manning’s and I was dying to get back. When I got there, I couldn’t believe how much had changed in just two months and yet, the family was still stuck in the same situtation.
Driving into their town of Franklin-Forks, Pennsylvania, I saw there was more construction going on and more land being given up for gas drilling. Woods were still being clear cut for pipelines and a farm even gave up it’s land to start building a compressor station.
The first thing I did when I arrived to the Manning’s was take Jayden, Madison, and their friend Amelia to the park by their house.
Since I was last at the Manning’s house, a water buffalo was installed next to their house and a vent was put on their water well so that the gas didn’t come into their house. Before this was installed, the Manning’s were living with 68% methane content in their drinking water and high methane levels in their air. The family had to shower with the windows open so they wouldn’t pass out from the gas and use a different stove so that their house wouldn’t explode.
Within minutes after arriving back at their house, a truck pulled up to deliver water to the family. The driver delivering the water didn’t want to give me his name, but he told me that since hydrofracking began in the area, their business had gone way up because of the need to deliver water to households.
Although WPX Energy has not taken responsibility for contaminating the Manning’s water, they pay for the water deliveries, claiming to do it to be “a good neighbor.” The energy company is paying for the delivery of water to four families in the Franklin-Forks area.
One thing I have loved to see with the Manning family, particularly Tammy, is their willingness to speak out about their situation. When I first met Tammy and Matt, they wouldn’t let me photograph them. Now, they are only some out of a very small handful of people in the area speaking up about their problems.
Along with their developed willingness to speak out against the gas industry, the Manning’s have began to live more sustainably. They recently bought chickens and Tammy often talks about how she hopes to start a commune and live off the grid. For the Manning’s, it took their water being contaminated by hydrofracking to realize the importance of living with as little an impact on the earth as possible.
I was excited to go back to one of my favorite spots in Franklin-Forks: the creek behind the Manning’s house. Since they have lived in their house, the children and dog have enjoyed swimming in the creek. Matt loves to fish there, especially after the town stocks it with salmon. During my visit in March, Matt and Tammy were afraid they wouldn’t be able to enjoy these activities anymore if the creek was contaminated. I never expected that in just two months there would already be signs of this.
Since my previous visit, just two months before, the creek had begun to bubble with methane. In the one section right where the kids used to swim, there is a constant stream of bubbles coming to the surface.
Tammy and Matt’s lives have been affected in so many ways due to the contamination of their water. The stress of everything has created a huge stress on their relationship. They both admit they have days where they get so frustrated with the situation that they take it out on each other.
The Manning’s have had to deal with so much since the contamination of their water. Because they are one of only a few families to come out and admit their water is contaminated, the community has turned against them. The community has held several town meetings, where everyone in the town was invited except for the families who claim their water is contaminated.
Most mornings, Tammy is gone by 6 AM to clean houses. Since their contamination, she parks her car down the street from the houses she cleans so that her identity doesn’t risk her losing work. Several mornings, she has been tailgated by gas workers flashing their high beams the whole way. It got to the point they had to call the state police and the gas company had a meeting to put and end to it. The next morning at 2 A.M. someone shined a spotlight on the back of their house at their daughter’s bedroom window. “Someone from our church who teaches the glass just above the age group I had in Sunday school told me the other day that if we needed guns to let him know,” Tammy said. “It’s a sad world when that is the conversation between two Sunday school teachers.
Even though WPX Energy pays for water to be delivered to the Manning’s house daily, the water buffalos which store the water are meant for cattle, so the water is not fit for human consumption. The situation for the family showering is a lot better, but they are still not able to drink the water that comes from their tap. So Matt still makes the twenty minute drive across the border to his mom’s house to fill up gallon jugs of water with her tap water. However, Matt’s mom’s town of Conklin, NY is a likely candidate for gas drilling if hydrofracking is allowed in New York State.
The Manning family is one of many in a constant battle against the gas company and their own community for clean drinking water. In the near future, Governor Cuomo will decide whether or not to allow horizontal wells to be drilled in New York State. We need to prevent this from happening to other families and help the ones who have been effected and hurt. The current hydrofracking methods are too dangerous to continue anywhere in the world.