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.