Assault to the Senses

Gas Drilling in Dimock, Pa.

Arsenic and gas well drilling in PA

Article Photos

CLEARVILLE – Angel Smith and her husband, Wayne, have lost animals on their
Bedford County farm and have begun to see health effects on themselves. They
believe the problems are a result of contamination from a natural gas
project of water that they give their animals and use to wash their hands
and brush their teeth.

“It’s around all this drilling,” Angel Smith said.

As the Steckman Ridge underground natural gas storage field project from
Texas-based Spectra Energy began to take off in 2007, the Smiths saw some of
their cows and one of their horses seemingly lose all control of motor
skills before dying a short time later. A pet Dalmatian also died.

A veterinarian said the deaths could be attributed to high levels of
arsenic, a chemical that has steadily increased in water tested by state
Department of Environmental Protection and Spectra Energy on the Smith’s
property in the past two years, Angel Smith said.

In addition to the arsenic, the Smiths said they also have seen an increase
in minerals like iron, sodium and magnesium.

Wayne Smith has developed abscessed teeth and other mouth problems, and his
wife said both have developed an increase in headaches. Around the time of
last year’s compressor station shutdowns, the Smiths said they felt
generally badly after being outside tending to their farm. The issues led to
litigation filed against Spectra.

“We shouldn’t have even been washing our hands or brushing our teeth,” Angel
Smith said. “It makes me wonder, what have we been drinking?”

DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni said his agency has done several samples of
private wells in the Clearville area during the past 18 months.

The tests, Spadoni said, look for a standard list of 13 possible
contaminants that could have been caused by the natural gas project,
including methane, iron, sodium and other components, but he was “not aware
that there were levels of concern” in those test results.

“We’ve had a number of complaints in the past year, year and a half
regarding possible contamination of private drinking water wells from
natural gas well drilling,” he said. “We’ve spent considerable staff time in
that area in the past 12 to 18 months with regards to this issue.”

The simpler tests done by Spectra and DEP don’t check for chemicals brought
into the water by hydraulic fracturing, a technique used in similar projects
that blasts millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the ground
to break up deposits that hold oil or gas, an environmental group said.

That test is one of many stronger regulations being pushed on state
officials by groups like Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm that presented
DEP with ways to protect drinking water in places like Clearville.

“We’re certainly hearing a lot about the effects on drinking water,”
Earthjustice Northeast Office Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg said.
“There’s very little right now that controls in a meaningful way how this is
happening. Everywhere gas drilling goes in, we’re starting to hear of

While states like New York have tough environmental review laws, there’s
nothing like that currently in Pennsylvania.

Spadoni said he was not aware of Earthjustice’s recommendations and could
not comment on their suggested guidelines.

On April 3, the Concerned Citizens of Clearville group will host a public
meeting beginning at 1 p.m. at the Pleasant Union Church, with professors
and other experts on drinking water and natural gas projects’ effect on it.

“We’re just trying to spark a little change,” Angel Smith said. “We’re
trying to get some laws changed and get more people aware of what’s going

Water quality impact issues have been raised by Clearville-area residents
previously, but that with the exception of one case that is pending
litigation, those have been handled on an individual basis through the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and DEP, Spectra spokeswoman Wendy
Olson said.

“Those issues have all been addressed,” Olson said. “The objective is to
take each issue and each conern and work through it and resolve it. We want
to be a good neighbor.”

Mirror Staff Writer Wendy Zook is at 946-7520.

Elk Lake School Bd. Meeting

I just went to the Elk Lake School Board meeting and requested making water test results from the school available for public view. They did have an item in their expense sheet this month for Benchmark Analytics Inc for post drilling water tests, costing $1186. They are sure the water is okay to drink. I encouraged them to monitor the water situation with vigilance, and told them what has been showing up in Carter Road water wells. Anne Teel, Dimock board member, is on provided water (water buffalo) due to drilling. Another member told me about his own concerns with drilling in Auburn Township. They said someone is calling in false reports to newspapers, and that they have had to repeatedly test the water. I know DEP and EPA have responded several times. It is too bad that the residents have to fund independent water testing, but it should be done, under the circumstances, considering the school’s two producing gas wells on the property and its proximity to Carter Road in Dimock. They made a point of each having water pitchers and glasses to drink from.

Drilling update

There’s a new drilling rig on my right, a fully loaded, ready to frack gas field even closer on my right (a few hundred feet away), and a compressor station and some frack equipment at the troubled Gesford 3 well pad on my left. About ten more gas wells within earshot. Baker well pad, less than a quarter mile up the road, is being drilled again.

Dimock drilling woes, bad roads, and waste water

Pat Farnelli Mar 12 08:57AM -0500 ^

Drove my kids to school today. Relentless large truck traffic, all gas
industry vehicles, on both sides of the road the whole way. Carter Road:
Gesford 7 is bringing in water tank trucks, Baker tanks, white Cabot
pickups, Residual waste brown tankers, etc. It is filling up as when
preparing to do major fracking. Why? This horizontal was supposedly finished
and producing. Is there another horizontal? The big lights are being set up
again. This has been almost constantly in full gear for two years straight.
Dimock to Elk Lake Road: Still terribly torn up, one catastrophic sinkhole
has been temporarily filled by PennDOT, others, the patching material has
already been dragged up the road. NUMEROUS Residual waste trucks heading
down 29 and turning onto Dimock Road. Coming from Springville. Was behind a
frackwater tank truck from Utah the whole way to Elk Lake, buses being held
up. Many suspiciously heavy trucks, some covered dump trucks coming from Elk
Lake Pad on right before bend toward Elk Lake church and filling station,
some coming from fork to left in Elk Lake. Also, numerous brown residual
waste and some covered Diaz Disposal municipal waste trucks constantly
coming from the gas well on the right side of Hunter Road in Springville
where it intersects with 29. On two other occasions, I have seen numerous
residual waste trucks coming in and going out of that well site, at odd
times like 5:40 p.m. Monday evening, or a week from Saturday at about that
time. Why is this well producing so much residual waste, and where are the
trucks going?
About the bridge on Elk Lake Road: I remember it totally collapsing and
washing away to a gorge during the flood a few years ago. It was not
constructed, or reconstructed, with heavy gas truck traffic in mind. I
predict it will collapse if there is spring flooding. Hopefully, not with a
flammable gas tanker on it at the time

Photos of flooding and erosion on Carter Rd.

flood pics Carter Rd. 10 a.m. Jan 26

Here are some flood photos.
Sen. Yaw; flashflood erosion on Carter Rd. 006.jpg Sen. Yaw; flashflood erosion on Carter Rd. 006.jpg
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Sen. Yaw; flashflood erosion on Carter Rd. 007.jpg Sen. Yaw; flashflood erosion on Carter Rd. 007.jpg
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Sen. Yaw; flashflood erosion on Carter Rd. 008.jpg Sen. Yaw; flashflood erosion on Carter Rd. 008.jpg
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Notes from Yaw meeting

Jan 26

I wrote notes on the meeting as requested by Bob Baker, but do not think they will be in an article this week. I sent him photos as well. He said that the big opportunity to meet with Senator Yaw was in Towanda, and it was a missed opportunity. He was hoping Victoria would go. He would have run an article, absolutely, if Yaw had shown up. I can’t write it myself, since I am a person with a “point of view” on the subject, a lease holder, a plaintiff, etc. Thought maybe you might want to see these notes. Feel free to send me a response, your notes, etc. He might do something with them next paper. I don’t know if he decided at the last minute to run this for this Wednesday’s paper, but he seemed kind of inundated, and was not too keen on a meeting the senator did not attend.
Joyce Stone began the meeting by saying that people from Dimock, particularly Victoria Switzer, have been trying to arrange a meeting with Senator Yaw so that he can be aware of the situation in the area of Carter Road. Although residents have been trying to speak with the senator for more than a year, and for more than nine months prior to the decision of some to file a lawsuit against Cabot, he has declined to speak with them directly.
His assistant/representative, Stacy Bellows, claimed that Yaw has been keeping himself informed on the gas well/water contamination issues, but does not want to take sides or in any way involve himself in the litigation.
Switzer told him that no one has approached him to take sides in the lawsuit, but residents want him to see for himself the complex issues involved in the situation, and to do his part as an elected official. Others in the room noted that the buck keeps getting passed, with all elected officials telling them to talk to a different level of government, because this is not their jurisdiction.
Several had seen a commercial in which the senator seemed to be celebrating the gas industry in Pennsylvania. They felt he has already taken sides and is an industry cheerleader.
Stacy tried to establish a rapport with the group by saying that she lives across the road from a gas well. “My father leased his property for only $5 an acre,” she said. “When we had the pre-drill testing done, we found out we had existing water problems.”
She referred the attendees to Adam Pancake in their Harrisburg office. She said, “The senator hears the concerns of all the residents in his district. For him to meet with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit, puts him in an awkward situation.”

Peggy Maloof from Heart Lake asked, “Is there some kind of law that a senator cannot talk to his constituents if they are involved in a lawsuit?”
Stacy responded, “It has always been a policy that we do not get involved with persons involved in the lawsuit.” Frank Finan from Lathrop Township said, “The Senator needs to understand the magnitude of what this is…it is not local, not national, it is of international magnitude.” He said that he has a relative working in the oil and gas industry in Texas, and that the main office has a large map of Susquehanna County, PA on their wall. Why Susquehanna County? Because there is very little regulation on the industry in PA, and the profit margins are fantastic.”
David Maloof said, ” I’ve been singularly uncomfortable with the apparent unwillingness of elected officials to get their hands around this. I’ve wanted to tell them there are other interests here, other residents who are not interested in leasing their property, who are alarmed by the effects on the water, property, air and soil.” He said, “Direct regulatory influence is only one way to influence outcomes. I am disappointed that Senator Yaw chose not to be here today.”
Mary Ann Warren spoke of her frustration with how little she can do to help. “I go to meetings, and then I am not allowed to look at the permits,” she said. “I’m now president of PA Conservation Districts Association, and I am trying to do what I can.”
Bellows passed out postcards for people to fill out to receive Yaw’s mailings and online newsletter. She said, “Written comments are probably the best way to forward information to our office. I am an information gatherer.”
Some of the attendees were Jule Ann Skinner, representing the League of Women Voters for Susquehanna County; Susquehanna County Commissioner Mary Ann Warren; Bob Shumacher from Jessup Township; Cynthia Hoyt from Montrose; David and Peggy Maloof from Heart Lake; Joyce Stone, from Dimock; Pat Farnelli from Dimock; George Calafut; Frank Finan; Barbara Clifford from Montrose, Julie Sautner, from Dimock.
After the meeting, Bellows said that her husband works
for a gas company contractor, as a plumber, and that he probably would
have been without work this winter otherwise. During the meeting, when several of us
tried to get across the way we have been misrepresented and maligned
by elected officials, the media, and the rumor mills, she said she
understands exactly how we feel, because that is what happens to
Senator Yaw. She
strongly suggested putting concerns and viewpoints on this issue in
writing, and said she would personally see to it that the Senator
reads these messages. His address is: Senator Gene Yaw, Senate Box
203023, The State Capitol, Harrisburg, PA 17120-3023. Her email
address is

Forceful uplift update

Joanne Fiorito
to me

Jan 29
it wasn’t me who originally brought up the 2H Clapper Hill well, Mrs. Chevyvan did, I countered her mention of the Clapper Well site with the name of Mowry Well site….which is where the incident took place……….I said it happened at the Clapper Hill which is in Bradford and I was asking if anyone knew where that was and then I brought up a map on google to physically see where it was and it was just west of here…my housemate says that it happened over in the area of Laceyville and that she’s seen stuff about it on the tv news……

Questions about the uplift/explosion incident

Pat Farnelli wrote:

Hey, TRex, I have a few comments: Are you sure the Clapper well you listed is the Clapper Hill Well? I heard there was a Clapper Well in Elk Lake. This was just hearsay from an Elk Lake bus driver. I heard the one that exploded was in Bradford County. That Clapper 2H well you cited seems to be in Susquehanna. Also, most of the reporters with the gas well beat aren’t exactly trained in the industry or chemistry or geology, and have to get the facts and turn them over quickly. I think they did that as well as can be expected. There is such a thing as a follow-up. No one was there to comment from the DEP? Remember, they said there was no explosion at Norma’s, either.

Update: Article by Ron Hosie in the Daily Review

Chesapeake denies its well exploded–published Jan. 28
12:45 p.m. update: Chesapeake denies its well exploded
Ron Hosie
Published: January 28, 2010

The incident involving a Chesapeake energy natural gas well this morning in Tuscarora Township was not an explosion, a company spokesman said early this afternoon.
Brian Grove, Chesapeake’s director of corporate development in Towanda, in a prepared statement, described what happened as “a brief but forceful uplift of tubing.” He specifically denied that the phenomenon was an explosion.
Three employees of a contract company were transported to a hospital, he said, but none had critical injuiries.
“There was no release of any materials that could be harmful to the environment and the situation presents no danger to the public. This is all the information that is available at this time,” Grove said in the statement.
According to transmissions over Wyoming County 911 communications at the time of the incident, an explosion took place at the Mowry well site of Chesapeake Energy on Clapper Hill in Tuscarora Township.
One person was thrown in the air 30 feet, and suffered back pain and injuries to his wrist and another individual sustained back pain, according to preliminary reports.
Emergency crews were called out, according to the scanner transmission, but there was no visible fire. Laceyville Fire Chief Scott Fisher refused to comment at mid-morning, saying he wouild need to finish his report first.
Jim Vajda. Bradford County’s Emergency Management Agency director was reported on the scene and unavailable for immediate comment.

Jan. 28

> There was a major explosion this morning at a gas well on Clapper Hill, around 3 a.m. The rig workers had to be lifeflighted out, and one was thrown 30 feet through the air. Just over the county line into I think Bradford County. More when I get the report.