Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RED ALERT! Bad Water in Paradise!

Cain Chamberlin
July 29, 2010

Mike Phillips holds the contaminated water that he discovered in his well on July 12 in his left hand, and in his right hand a sample of bottled water. Phillips is concerned that the disturbance in his well is due to gas drilling operations that have taken place near his home.
Photo by Cain Chamberlin

Bad Water in Paradise? Terry Twp. Residents Await Answers

Click here for video of gas igniting from bathroom sink faucet at Phillip's neighbor, Scott Spencer's home.

When Michael and Jonna Phillips woke up on Monday, July 12, they expected it to be like any other day…until they turned on their water.

They noticed that it was an odd, murky, brownish color. For obvious personal safety and health reasons, they decided against tasting it to figure out why.

Since the Phillips’s home, located along Paradise Road in Terry Township, was built in 2002, they have never had any trouble with their water. Their well is approximately 140 deep. They had their water tested in April of this year, and the results came back clear of any contamination, so the sudden change seemed extremely peculiar to them.

The Phillipses were aware that their next-door neighbors, Jared and Heather McMicken, had the same disturbance in their water, although the discoloration of their water started in early June when no one else had the problem, making them think it was just bad luck. The McMicken well is at approximately the same depth as that of the Phillips’s. Soon after the McMickens started having water trouble, Scott Spencer, another nearby resident, made a major discovery in his water as well; he could light it on fire.

“Spit and Sputter”
“All the faucets started
to spit and sputter, so we were curious as to what was going on,” said Spencer.

A Chesapeake drilling site no further than a quarter-mile away from the three homes struck the curiosity of Phillips. Even though all three residents have signed on to lease their land to gas companies, none of their properties has been subject to any operations so far. It made Phillips wonder if the nearby drilling was the culprit.

Phillips finally reached Greg Garrison, an Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Field Specialist for Chesapeake Energy, after several attempts. Garrison brought a couple of cases of water to their home and looked at the problem for himself. Phillips said that after Garrison saw the disturbance with his own eyes, he told them that they should keep all their receipts dealing with any water purchases or testing and repairs to the well; if the DEP could prove that Chesapeake was at fault, they would be reimbursed.

“He told us that he or someone from Chesapeake would be back on a daily basis,” said Phillips. They have not seen nor heard from anyone at Chesapeake in over a week, while the McMicken family has only seen a Chesapeake representative twice since reporting their water problems.

A representative of the DEP ran a test in the water systems on both the Phillips and McMicken properties on July 15 and again on July 21. According to the DEP, the full results will not be available for about 40 days, but they immediately found rising levels of methane in the water. The reports show the Phillips’s water had minima
l amounts of methane in the first test, but rose to three percent six days later. The McMickens’ level rose from three percent to four percent in the same time period.

DEP Offers Advice
DEP advised them, as well as Scott Spencer and his family, not to drink the water. Heather McMicken, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease, had been drinking close to 25 glasses of tap water per day since the spring until her family’s water problems began. Her children were drinking several glasses every day as well, which concerns her deeply.

“Our kids’ health is number one priority,” she said.

Phillips contacted Thomas Dunn, a local water well specialist, who almost immediately after removing the well cap on July 18 told them that there was gas in the water. Once again, they were advised not to drink the water and told that there was a definite disturbance. According to Mrs. Phillips, who is due to have their second child in October, Garrison told her that she could bathe in the water, although the family doctor advised her not to.

She now has to take her twice-daily showers at a friends’ house about two miles away. Mrs. Spencer, who is also pregnant with their second child, has been bathing in the water because she has no other option. The DEP told the Spencers that the water did contain some effervescence but appeared to be fine, although they shouldn’t drink it, just as a precaution. According to Spencer, the DEP claimed that they would be stopping by on a weekly basis to run water tests but have yet to come back.

“Chesapeake told us that it could be from something five or six years ago that we didn’t realize was happening,” said Spencer, “Basically that the problem was just natural causes.”

Alternate Sources

The Phillipses have purchased a water cooler system, while the Spencers and McMickens are buying bottled water on a regular basis. The children in each family are getting very impatient wondering when they will be able to drink their own water or swim in their plastic kiddie pools again during the current summer heat.

“We don’t know if it will end soon or not, we don’t know what to expect,” Spencer said.

Last week, Phillips wrote several letters in order to address the situation of his family and neighbors. He contacted Chesapeake’s Director of Corporate Development Brian Grove, Sen. Gene Yaw, State Rep. Tina Pickett and Congressman Chris Carney, as well as an environmental lawyer from Washington, DC. Phillips says that he is determined to find answers and to make sure that his drinking water is restored to its original condition.

“No one is immune to this and this is ruining our beautiful place to live,” said Phillips, “All we wanted was a nice, peaceful community. These are young families in new homes, and we just want this problem taken care of.”

(Editor’s Note: Brian Grove, Chesapeake Energy’s Director of Corporate Development, responds to concerns expressed in this article in a statement released on Wednesday, July 28. That statement is published in this issue of the Rocket-Courier.)

Click here for video of gas igniting from bathroom sink faucet at Phillip's neighbor, Scott Spencer's home.

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(BULLSHIT image for Splashdown post courtesy of Google.)




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