Fracking Not the Only Threat to Pa.'s Drinking Water

By Susan Phillips / NewsWorks
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Jun. 9, 2011

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Crystal Stroud is a 29-year-old hairdresser who lives in Marcellus Shale country, on a rural road in Bradford County, Pa., hard by a stream, across from a farm.

In February, a company called Chief Oil and Gas began drilling a natural gas well about 1,200 feet from her house. In March, she says, she started noticing clumps of hair falling out in the shower.

She was at the outset of an ordeal that raises questions as to whether natural gas drilling courts risks of water contamination that go beyond the process known as "fracking."

About a week after the hair in the shower, Stroud called to her husband in a panic:

 "I said ... oh my God there's something wrong and he put his hand to my chest and he said I can feel it, it's beating hard. I  said I feel like I'm out of breath constantly, when I shop, like grocery shopping.  Everyone said it sounds like anxiety attacks." 

Stroud's doctor prescribed Zoloft, an anti-anxiety medication. 

"So after taking the Zoloft for three days, I still had all of the symptoms, the shortness of breath, the heart racing," said Stroud. "Then my hands began to tremble." Stroud says her speech also was slurred.

A benchmark test

Like many in her area, Stroud was aware of the concerns about hydrofracturing, or fracking. In that process, a solution of water, sand and chemicals is shot into a deep well to help release the gas.

When she saw the drill rig go up near her house, she had her well water sent for testing. She wanted to get a baseline, in case fracking ended up polluting her water.  But Stroud's health issues began before the well near her house had ever been fracked.

On April 11, she got a surprising call from the lab.

The woman calling said the water tests revealed "major concerns."

"I said well what do you mean major concerns? And she said 'well you have elevated levels of barium, manganese, lead, and gross alpha, gross beta, which are radiological materials,'" said Stroud.

Stroud mentioned her symptoms and the caller said barium had been known to cause similar symptoms.

"It is a public health concern for example she needed to know the barium in her water was really really high," said Carrie Davis, who works for Benchmark Analytics, the lab that Stroud used to test her water.

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Comments 1 - 2 of 2
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1. FrackTrack said... on Jun 10, 2011 at 08:23AM

“The Marcellus Shale website they don't want you to know about. or

People need to start organizing in a centralized manner if they want to make their environment a product of their actions. Especially when it comes to enacting reasonable marcellus shale regulations.

This is why we created and FrackMap. Users can organize and keep one another informed about gas development activity in their areas.You can also view permit information, gas and waste production as well as issued violations for each gas well throughout the Commonwealth. We've survived one attempt to shut our site down, your participation at or will increase the chances of this public interest initiative's survival.

Sign up today and declare yourself!”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jun 10, 2011 at 09:16AM

“The article states the health concerns came before the well was fracked but never offers a possible cause. We've been extracting resources from the ground for over a hundred years is it possible this is part of the residual effects of prior extraction? I'd like some further study to determine the cause. If the driller did use barium there should be higher levels at the drill site. Call me skeptical but I'm just not convinced this is a new problem.”


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