To see my photo essay on the Manning Family published on Rolling Stone’s website:
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.
I met the Manning family during my first trip to the area about a month ago. The Mannings live in Franklin-Forks, Pennsylania and discovered in December of 2011 that their water went bad, shortly after WPX Energy began hydrofracking in the area. At the time, I was not able to mention their name or photograph them because they are in a lawsuit with WPX Energy. However, when I called Tammy Manning a few weeks later after first meeting her she told me she was fed up and wanted to let the public know what their family is going through.
Tammy and Matt Manning have three daughters who are all in their twenties. Up until 2010, they had always rented their houses. However, when their landlord needed to sell the house they were living in, they decided to purchase their first house in Franklin Township in November of 2010. Shortly after buying their house, WPX Energy began drilling in the town.
In December of 2011, the Mannings water came out of the faucet grey. They got their water tested by the DEP and the results came back positive for containing high levels of methane, arsenic, barium, and other dangerous chemicals. There is also carbon monoxide coming out of the faucets. The safe level for methane in drinking water is between 5-10 percent. The Manning’s water is at 68 percent methane.
Tammy and Matt now live in their house with their daughter Brianne and her two kids Madison, 5, and Jayden, 3. On the weekends, their granddaughter, Emily, 1, stays with them. Once a week Matt drives to Conklin, New York to his mother’s house where he fills up gallon-jugs of water which the family uses for drinking, cooking, and other daily tasks such as brushing their teeth. However, they still have to shower in the contaminated water. When they shower, they have to leave a window open or a fan on or else they get lightheaded from all of the methane coming out. They do not know the long-term health risks of this and are concerned for their grandchildren.
The Mannings are the first family to come out and say they have a problem with their water. Since, several other families in the town came out saying their water is contaminated as well. Once a well is contaminated, the water can never be drinkable again.
Tammy and Matt agreed to let me stay with them during my spring break to photograph their family. They told me that they would like to expose the whole operation and they want to see WPX Energy forced to stop drilling. Most importantly, they want to stop this from happening to other families. The Mannings were so accommodating and to say that by the end of the trip I became attached to the family is a huge understatement. They are the last family I would want something like this to happen to.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
I arrived at the Manning’s around 5 PM.
As soon as I walked in the door, Madison grabbed my hand and gave me a very helpful tour, making sure I knew I couldn’t drink from the water faucets and could only drink from the water jugs, which were piled in the kitchen. Once a week, Matt drives to his mother’s house to fill up gallon-jugs with a week’s worth of water. The family uses this water for drinking, cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, and for their dog and five cats that live with them.
Matt and I watched television with the kids (mostly Scooby Doo – the word obsessed doesn’t nearly describe Jayden’s addiction to it) and discussed his family’s situation while we waited for Tammy to get home from her cleaning job. When Tammy got home we all talked some more about what their life is like without drinking water.
Because their daughter Brianne works nights at Burger King, it is up to Tammy and Matt to cook, clean, and watch Madison and Jayden during the day when they are not at work. On top of this, they now have to meet with lawyers, the township, and the EPA regarding their water. Matt and Tammy are upset because even though they just bought their first house under two years ago, their property value has gone down to nothing because they don’t have clean water.
After some time of talking, I decided to call it a night. I brushed my teeth using bottled water and went to the room they had prepared for me. On my bed were two gift baskets from Tammy as if letting me stay with them for five days wasn’t enough.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
The Mannings are all up by 5:30 AM. Matt and Tammy leave around this time for work. Matt works at a metal shop and Tammy runs her own cleaning service. Madison’s Mom, Brianne, works full time during the night shift and comes home from work around 5 AM. Madison asked me to help make her lunch so that she didn’t have to bother her Mom since she was tired from work. Jayden, Madison, and I all had a bowl of cereal and I helped Madison with her basic addition homework. She is in kindergarten. Madison’s bus came to pick her up at about a quarter after seven and I went back to bed until about nine.
Since Brianne works during the nights, she sleeps during the day. Until Tammy comes home from work at 1 PM, Jayden stays in Brianne’s room while she sleeps or roams about the house talking about Scooby Doo. Since I was alone for the day, I decided to drive around town and see the different hydrofracking pad sites. But before I did, it was my first time for a shower in the contaminated water…
Because Williams Gas Company has not yet recognized that they are responsible for the contamination of the Manning’s well, they are not getting clean water delivered to them, like some of the families in Dimock. They have no option but to shower in the contaminated water. Other families with contaminated water have complained about getting red bumps and rashes over their skin from showering. Although the Manning’s haven’t experienced this yet, Tammy and Matt are concerned about the long-term health effects showering could have, especially on their grandchildren. Sometimes, Brianne pays a neighbor to let Madison and Jayden bathe in their bathtub. The Manning’s made sure to let me know to keep the fan on while I shower, otherwise they said they get lightheaded from all of the methane that builds up in the bathroom. As soon as I turned on the shower, a strange smell filled the bathroom. It smelled like a mix between sulfur and clay. The shower would also come out in spurts (this was from the methane coming out), not a smooth flow like I am used to. This made it difficult to wash all of the shampoo out of my hair. Every morning during my stay when I took a shower I made sure not to be in it for very long.
I drove down the road to Hi-Tech Collision, a garage owned by Bill Pabs. Bill is still drinking his water, even though dirt and sand comes out of his faucet. It was interesting to talk with Bill because he had a lot to say about the operation from a business owner’s perspective. Bill acknowledges that jobs have come in for local residents because of hydrofracking. Although on average only 10-20% of gas drilling jobs go to local residents, business in the town has increased because of the number of incoming workers, mostly from Texas and Louisiana. However, crime rates, car accidents, and road damage has also increased. Bill explained how as a shop owner, although business has increased (because of the increase in accidents), he is finding it harder to compete with the gas company as an employer. Because the gas company has more money to pay its employees, Bill is finding it harder to find employees who will work for him, because he cannot pay as much.
After visiting with Bill, I drove around the Franklin area. I noticed several changes since my last visit to Franklin. Several more wells had been put up and some of the well pads I photographed before had now been fracked. Currently, there are eight wells in the Franklin Township area. WPX Energy is planning on building thirty more.
Driving around broke my heart all over again, seeing a beautiful rural town taken over by industry and having the land destroyed by big well sites and the pathways of pipelines.
It was a beautiful day out so I drove to Salt Springs Park where I sat outside and read a book for some time. By the time I got back to the Manning’s house, Tammy was home from work. She left to pick up Matt from work and shortly after they returned, Bob Ackley and Frank Finan knocked on the door.
Bob and Frank went to over twenty houses in the area, testing methane levels in the air. The machine they were using made me feel like I was in the movie Ghost Busters. You could see the concern on their faces as soon as they turned the machine on and measured the Manning’s levels. As we walked up the stairs to the bathroom and the machine started reading over 150 ppm, Bob turned around to Tammy and Matt and said, “If you don’t mind me asking, what the hell is the gas company doing for you?” The answer of course, is nothing. As they turned on the shower and measured the methane level in the bathroom, the levels reached 225 ppm, the highest Bob and Frank had seen yet. Bob urged Tammy and Matt to purchase a gas detector, so they will be warned if the levels get too high and they need to evacuate the house. If the levels get too high, their house could explode.
When Bob and Frank left, Tammy and Matt began preparing dinner for everyone. Matt cooked chicken on the grill, while Tammy made rice and beans. The family is not able to use the oven or stove, because they could risk blowing up their house due to the high methane levels. They have to cook on a portable stove, as shown above, which takes a lot longer to cook on. Tammy told me she really misses baking cookies and brownies.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Again, the Manning family was up by 5:30 AM. We basically had the same routine as the morning before: I ate cereal with Jayden and Madison and helped Madison pack her lunch and finish her homework. When everyone left for work and school, I again took a very fast shower.
Around 10 AM I left the house to visit Leif and Barbara Winter who own an organic farm in town. Although they only live four or five miles from the Mannings, it took me over a half hour to get there, due to heavy traffic, road work, and slow moving trucks.
I pulled up the Winter’s long, gravel driveway to find two goats wandering around infront of the house. As soon as I knocked on the door and was greeted by Barbara and Leif, I immediately liked them. Leif invited me to sit down and explained he needed to finish sending an email, which he was sending to WPX Energy to complain about the poor performance their PR person had at the most recent town meeting.
I grew a deep respect for the Winter’s after just a few short minutes of talking to them. They are the type of people who advocate for sustainable living and actually live out those practices. They have an organic farm along with chickens and goats. They used to provide vegetables to CSA farms, but now they produce just enough vegetables, milk, and eggs to live off for themselves. “I really feel for growers whose water is being compromised,” Leif said.
Leif and I asked different questions about the presence of hydrofracking in each other’s lives. I explained to him my concerns about hydrofracking occurring in New York State and the area I live in and he responded by telling me how much he hoped New York State doesn’t allow the gas companies to start drilling. Although the Winter’s water has not been contaminated, they have watched the area they live in drastically change. Barbara has lived on the property since the 70s and Leif since 1995. Leif explained to me that they discuss leaving because of the presence of hydrofracking in the area. Barbara poked her head out of the kitchen and said, “I’d like to move, but I’m too old.” Leif explained how the landscape around them has changed and how he wishes our country would begin to invest in renewable energy. He then went on to say that to him, his farm and home is an “oasis in the middle of a bunch of crap,” referring to the wells in the town. He complained that the gas companies are doing so much around them, but “none of the people that live here know what’s going on.”
When I got home from visiting with the Winters, Tammy had just gotten back from work. Usually, the Mannings leave their water running so that their water comes out “cleaner”. This results in a high electricity bill, since the pump has to be going more. However, if the water is off for a couple of hours so much methane builds up that when you turn the water back on, the well will start hissing and erupting with water. Since the water had been off all day, she asked me if I’d like to get video of the well after we turned on the water.
The video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n0oM4R5WKE&feature=share.
The rest of the day was spent eating dinner and playing with the kids. Jayden spent most of the trip walking around with his “Scooby Fish” swimming in a Ziploc bag of the contaminated water.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Saturday morning, I went with Matt on his weekly run to get water from his Mom’s house in Conklin, NY. It’s about a twenty-minute drive and along the way he talked about how growing up, he spent a lot of time outdoors. Not much has changed. Matt spends much of his time fishing, hunting, and boating and has a great appreciation for the outdoors.
Matt’s mother is an extremely warm and welcoming person. We walked into the house and were immediately hit with a delicious smell of meatballs cooking in the crock pot.
Matt brought in a garbage bag filled with gallon-sized water jugs. He walked straight to the sink and began filling them up with water as he and his mother talked about their well situation and how Matt’s father was doing in the nursing home. It took around fifteen minutes to fill up the jugs and four different trips to the truck.
Once we got back to the Manning house, I made myself a quick sandwich and headed to Dimock, where I met with Ray Kembele.
Ray’s water went bad four years ago. This is a sample of water he collected from his well last summer. Cabot Oil and Gas Company used to supply the families with water, but stopped deliveries at the end of last year. Craig Stevens and Ray decided to take it upon themselves to supply the families with water.
Craig and Ray get this water from a hydrant in Montrose, PA, which Craig pays for through donations. Members in the community of Montrose are upset with them for taking water from their town to provide to families in Dimock. Ray has been physically harassed while trying to pump water from the hydrant. After spending ten minutes with Ray, I don’t know who would be crazy enough to mess with him.
During our car ride, Ray chain-smoked four cigars as we talked about numerous things involving hydrofracking in the area. In the background artists such as Lady Gaga, Sheryl Crow, and Avril Lavigne were almost inaudibly playing. It made me laugh to think of him driving alone with it turned up, cigar in mouth.
Ray used to work for Cabot Oil and Gas Company, driving a water truck to the sites. He was fired, however, when he called the EPA notifying them of violations the company was making including hauling brine water in fresh water tanks. It’s ironic that he is now hauling water to families effected by this same company.
The first house we delivered water to was the house of Erik Roos. Erik came out to talk with Ray and meet me and it was obvious how normal it had become for him to have someone deliver water from a truck to a water buffalo outside of his house.
Because the water buffalos are meant for cattle, humans cannot consume water out of them. So these families use the water for showering, but still have to buy bottled water to use for drinking, cooking, and other uses.
Next, we went to the house of Richard Seymour. His house is absolutely beautiful and it was sad to see how much work had been put into it to know that the property value is now so low because of not having safe water.
A comment his wife made about filling up an ice cube tray with bottled water made me realize how many different small inconveniences there were I hadn’t thought about.
Next, Ray delivered water to the Hubert’s, a family on Carter Road I had met during my previous trip.
The last delivery Ray had to make was for himself. Ray explained that his electricity bill is an extra $150 - $200 dollars a month from running the buffalo. Ray said that if he wins the lawsuit against Cabot Oil and Gas Company, he is leaving Dimock. Ray had to stop using his pool because so much dust and dirt got in it from the big trucks that it was impossible to keep clean. For this same reason he has to keep his windows closed and he can’t use the grill outside. “You can’t enjoy your own yard,” he said.
I got back to the Manning’s house around 2:30. Around this time Vera Scroggins, a local activist, called me and invited me along to an anti-fracking Natalie Merchant concert in Binghamton. She asked me to bring the video of the Manning’s well erupting.
I got to set up my video at a “Water for Dimock” table and it was great to be able to be apart of the Dimock group and see the amazing people I had met during my last trip: Vera Scroggins, Craig Stevens, Craig and Julie Sautner. Ray, who I had spent the day delivering water with, was there too! I met a lot of great people during the night and got to see Natalie Merchant perform, who was incredible.
I got back to the Mannings around midnight and found Tammy doing a puzzle and watching TV. Although I was exhausted, I joined Tammy and worked on the puzzle with her. We spent about an hour joking around and competing to see who could get more pieces. That’s when it hit me how much I would miss this family when I had to leave the next day.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Because it was daylight savings and the clocks skipped forward an hour, we all slept in a little bit. After we got up, ate breakfast, and got ready for the day everyone decided to hike down to the creek, which is right behind the house. As soon as Tammy and Matt brought up the idea, everyone lit up, especially Madison and Maggie (the family dog).
The Mannings spend a lot of time at the creek, especially in the summer. Behind the house is a swimming hole with a rope swing, which everyone enjoys. Every year, the creek is stocked with giant trout, which the Mannings all love to fish. They are all worried that the creek will become contaminated and they will not be able to swim or fish there anymore.
As soon as we got there, Madison took my hand and showed me all her favorite rocks to sit on. Jayden spent most of the time throwing big rocks in the creek. Maggie jumped in almost as soon as the water was in site.
After a little while, Jayden started acting up so we had to head back to the house. Madison immediately broke down into tears with this news, so we promised her we would all play outside in the backyard.
When we got back to the house, Madison and I planted milkweed we had found down by the creek. She wanted to use the family’s bottled water to water it and I had to tell her we weren’t able to so they had enough water for the week.
During this time, Tammy’s parents showed up for a visit. Tammy’s Mom has dementia and the second she saw me she threw out her arms for a big hug and told me it was great to see me, even though we had never met. I think she was a little confused when I explained I was a photojournalist staying with the family.
It was getting to be late afternoon so I began to pack up my things. Matt and Tammy prepared dinner and as soon as we were finished eating I said my goodbyes so I didn’t have to drive on the bad roads in the dark. They all stood in the yard, waving goodbye and as soon as I pulled away I began to cry. It was so hard to leave the Mannings knowing what they were going through and probably would have to continue going through for some time.
I plan on visiting the Mannings again in the near future and to keep up with their situation. I hope that by sharing their story you will see the other side of hydrofracking that the government and gas companies are not acknowledging. 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.
It was so hard to get up on Saturday morning. Ellie and I barely got six hours of sleep and didn’t know if we were ready to handle another emotional day. However, we knew that water is delivered to four families on Carter Rd between 8 and 10:30 every morning, so we forced ourselves to get up.
One thing Ellie and I immediately noticed during our time in Dimock, was the number of trucks on the road. There are constantly huge trucks on the road. Because of the amount of heavy trucks, the roads are destroyed. There are potholes half the size of the road all over. On our way to Carter Road, we saw road workers filling in the potholes. I began taking photographs of them filling in a pothole when a man in a white truck pulled up to me. “Excuse me, may I ask what the pictures are for?” he asked. I explained I was a photojournalism student just taking some pictures for myself. He answered. “Just so you know we’re paving this Monday. We’re just filling the potholes. We’re here to help people, not hurt them.” Why did a road worker feel the need to convince me he is a good person for filling a hole? Why did he need to question me for taking a picture of a hole in the road in the first place?
One of the things that broke my heart about Dimock, was how such a beautiful, rural town was turned totally industrial. The whole town has been redefined by industry.
This creek, which runs along Carter Road has been contaminated by a number of diesel spills from the trucks.
The Sautner’s get their water delivered every morning by this truck. The truck drives from two and a half hours away to deliver to the Sautner’s and three other families on Carter Road.
The Sautner’s gave us a few phone numbers of other people we could contact. A call to Craig Stevens lead us to Silver Springs, a town nine miles from Dimock. Ellie and I immediately fell in love with the town and it’s beauty. They started hydrofracking in Silver Lake about a year ago and in the past few months, citizens are just starting to discover their water has been contaminated. These families are still without any assistance from the gas and oil companies to provide them with clean water.
Just like Dimock, the roads in Silver Lake were destroyed from the trucks. This road damage was right in front of Craig Stevens’ house. Craig complains that there are trucks constantly driving by his house, even in the middle of the night.
Craig Stevens is the sixth generation in his family to live in his house in Silver Lake. Craig is extremely upset over the hydrofracking in his area and what it has done to his property. He hopes to pass the house on to his children, making them the seventh generation to reside in the house.
Craig pulled this trailer out from his garage. He collected this garbage along his road in two hours. He explained that the truck drivers who come in from texas, louisiana, etc also come with a lot of problems. There are beer cans littered all over the road which they throw out their windows (..while driving). There have been several drug busts with the fracking workers brought in from all over the country. Crime rates have also skyrocketed in the towns since hydrofracking begun. Craig told us about a seventeen year old girl in the town who had to watch her father die after a fracking truck overturned on top of their car.
Craig Stevens shows us Laurel Lake Creek which runs through his backyard. The creek used to be filled with trout, but on July 29, 2011 a well near his house had a blow out. A blow causes thousands of gallons of fracking fluid to be spilled into local fields, creeks, farms, etc. The well near his house blew out eight times in under two months. There is now a brown substance covering the bottom of the creek.
After we heard Craig’s story, we met up with Vera Scroggins. Vera is an extraordinary woman and has become a hydrofracking activist and founded Citizens for Clean Water in Silver Lake. Vera takes people on tours of Silver Lake and shows them the different active sites in the area.
We called Vera that morning and she was kind enough to spend several hours with us taking us on a tour of the area. This was the first live fracking site Ellie and I saw. It was hard to finally experience what was causing devastation to the many great people we met over the weekend.
This is a hydrofracking site which is currently being built in Silver Lake. The driveway leads back to a flat pad which the well goes on top of, which completely disturbs the landscape.
Vera took us to a family who just discovered this December that their water was contaminated. They are currently in a law suit with the oil and gas company, so I could not take photographs of them and I cannot mention their names. They have two kids, one who is two years old and the other five. They have to drive to New York once a week to pick up water, but the family still has to shower in the contaminated water. They explained how they have to leave a window open while they shower, otherwise they get dizzy from all of the methane building up.
The family filled up a glass with their tap water for us. They explained that the water usually comes out yellow, but because they wanted to do laundry that day they left it running for the day so it “looks cleaner than usual.” They are able to light their tap water on fire from the methane coming out of the faucet, but because there were young kids in the house and it can be dangerous, I didn’t ask them to do it for us. Although they got their water tested by the gas and oil company 45 days ago, the company still hasn’t returned the results or discussed a way to get them clean water.
I took this picture to show how close in proximity these fracking wells are to homes. I don’t understand how people think that windmills are ugly (even though I think they’re pretty), but are okay with this when it is also so endangering to health and the environment.
It breaks my heart to think of what this landscape would look like without this.
As the sun went down it came time for Ellie and I to head back to Rochester. Along with these photographs, Ellie and I took video and recorded audio, both of the fracking and our interviews with people. We finished off our day by recording a video of us reflecting on our day with this in the background. With tears in my eyes I asked everyone to stop this from happening in other parts of the country, including our own and I want to ask you all the same thing. I understand the Marcellus Shale is a gold mine of natural gas, but it just isn’t worth risking something as essential to the lives of people as water, air, and soil. We need your help to stop this from continuing.
When we pulled onto Carter Road, we saw DEP testing water at the first house. I walked up to the DEP and asked them if I could photograph them testing the water. They told me I had to ask the landowner who was now walking towards me. I explained to the owner that I was a RIT student doing a photography project on hydrofracking and would like to take pictures. He asked to see my ID and when I showed him he told me it would be fine, as long as I didn’t include his name or any pictures of his house. He then began to explain how his water was a “little contaminated” and he was mad at his neighbors for making a fuss because he had sold his house, but they buyers back out (..probably because they had no drinking water..). As I began getting my camera gear together I saw him talking to the DEP. Seconds later, he walked back up to me and told me he had changed his mind and didn’t want me to photograph.
We were starting to get a little discouraged. We decided we may as well go all out, so we started to go door to door. This is the first door we knocked on.. the house of Victoria Hubert.
Victoria Hubert has lived in her house in Dimock for 20 years. Cabot Oil and Gas Company began leasing land for drilling in Dimock in 2006. Cabot paid her to put a well near her house. Because she could use some extra money and they told her there were no risks, she let them put a well near her property. Soon after the drilling began, however, her water became contaminated. It has been 4 years since she has had water. She can’t use her tap water for drinking, cooking, showering, or doing laundry. She drives twenty miles to the nearest laundromat when she needs to wash her family’s clothes. Cabot Oil and Gas Company fills a tank with water in front of her house once a week with 300 gallons of water for herself, her daughter, and her husband. The average American used 80-100 gallons of water per day.
The next house we went to was the house of Patricia Farnelli.
Pat’s water is contaminated and has been tested positive for chemicals such as lead, arsenic, and barium, but she is not getting water delivered to her house. Although we visited with Pat on a school day, all four of her kids were home sick. She said they have been sick for three months, vomiting and with diarrhea. When Pat first found out her water was contaminated, she began to boil all the water they used. However, she quickly found out that boiling the water just makes it worse. Every week Pat goes grocery shopping, she fills one cart up with groceries and another one up with bottled water. She has to pay for all the water herself, and it gets very expensive. They use bottled water for almost everything: cooking, drinking, brushing their teeth. However, the family still has to shower in the contaminated water. Her eighteen year old daughter has red bumps and rashes all over her arms from showering in the water. Other families I talked with explained the same thing happening to their children who were showering in the water.
Pat showed us the well behind her house where they used to get their water, which is now contaminated.
Pat also showed us the pump that the gas and oil company told her she had to take the nozzle off of, or else so much methane would build up that her house could explode.
We ended our day at Craig and Julie Sautner’s house. The Sautner’s are some of the nicest, most inspiring people I have met. They are one of four families on Carter Road who the gas companies have admitted to contaminating their water. They are very involved in taking action against these gas companies and are spreading the word of the dangers of hydrofracking to people all over the world. Despite working six days a week, Craig and Julie Sautner make time to meet with reporters every night. Reporters from National Geographic, Time Magazine, CNN, Fox News, and people as far away as Japan, New Zealand, and France have been to the Sautners interviewing them about their experiences with hydrofracking.
The Sautner’s water has been tested positive for arsenic, methoxyethanol and DEHP which is a platicizer. Every morning, a water truck drives from two and a half hours away to fill up a tank outside of their house with water.
Julie shows us the water test summary taken from Cabot that morning. Their water tested over the safe limit for arsenic. Their neighbor’s were over four times over the safe limit.
Craig Saunter shines a flashlight through a water sample taken on January 28, 2012 to show the particles in the water.
The Sautner’s were kind enough to let us take home a sample of their water. When you shook it, you could see the particles swirling around. We spent a lot of time with the Sautner’s asking them questions and hearing their story. When we talked about the town and the different signs we saw, they explained to us the hostility going on in their community because of the drilling. The Sautner’s get harassed when they go into town. The families whose water has not been contaminated are upset with the families who are complaining about their poisoned water. Because of the Sautner’s and the other families on Carter Road, hydrofracking has been banned for a nine square mile radius for the past year and a half. The families who have not been effected are missing out on money that they could be getting from the gas company to drill on their properties. It has pitted neighbor against neighbor. Although drilling is not currently going on in Dimock at least for now, these family’s water supplies are still contaminated.
Although the Sautners desperately want to move, they are unable to. Craig has been offered a job in Tennessee, but cannot take it because they cannot sell their house (because they don’t have drinking water) and cannot afford two mortgages. “We are trapped in our own house,” they said.
It was creeping to around 10 PM and Ellie and I were exhausted from a long, emotional day. The Sautners asked where we were staying and warned us that all the hotels and motels in the area have been rented out from people coming in to frack. Although people in favor of hydrofracking claim it brings jobs to towns, only about 10% of the jobs are given to locals, the rest are workers that are brought in. Ellie and I had to drive to Binghamton, New York which was an hour away to get a hotel room. We were speechless after leaving the town of Dimock.
Outside of our hotel room was this billboard.. I felt like throwing up.