What is it like to be “Fracked”?

People in southern PA, with friends in not-yet-fracked-up NY state, asked me to say what it has been like in our neck of the dust.

I must first thank God for what we still keep: His blessings in the way of life of the people here, and holy work to do among them…. we just share a tiny fraction of their loss.

The Nutshell Version: We failed to understand what the massing of white trucks on the County’s borders portended.

For us (we rent our home), it all “started” one day when we happened to witness a Land Grab . We actually saw one of the coordinating meetings in progress over coffee at our favorite Mom-n-Pop diner.

The next clue was like War of the Worlds as a tower we had not noticed spouted flames, their flickers reflected all over the cloudy night sky amidst a terrifying torch-throwing sound.

Then we started gathering information, and by then it was too late for clean water– our local help-yourself spring suddenly sported a “Do Not Drink the Water” sign when I went to fetch our supply of drinking water. (I posted about this earlier.) Now we fetch and carry all of our drinking and cooking water from a friend’s roadside spring an hour west, about three-four times per year. But the white trucks began massing on his county’s borders last fall. Soon we anticipate being in competition with well drillers for WalMart’s and Lowe’s water jugs…. with water from unspecified sources.

My house is full of nasty dust– we sit between two nearby wellpads; a new “pond” for them to suck all the local groundwater out of; and the farmers who can at last pay off their tractors and who are diversifying from dairy into other means of having grocery bucks. Just up our road is the dirt-moving company whose trucks’ wheels leave their drying mud all over the road, to be pulverized into… more dust blowing all over my porch storage and into my house.

Our road, which was also the ambulance route to a large portion of the county,  has not seen much ambulance traffic this past year. We also have grown creative in popping over and around ridges not clogged with trucks hauling water and chemical uphill towards the wellpads, at a snail’s pace. (There is another TBTG item– the friend who taught me safe/fast ridge-running when we arrived in ’94.)

Tourism is nearly defunct. Only a few hunters came last fall.

Apartments are perma-booked with revolving groups of gas workers. A one-sleeping-room/houseshare is $600-$1,000 a month. Apartments? A thousand and up– way up–  per month  (goodbye student housing). TBTG our landlord is also a principled friend, or St. Paul’s Canon Rector would now be homeless– IF we could find housing, it’s all way over our pay grade. But the landlord can afford now to maintain this crumbling old lady– a brick Victorian– we call home.

I have understated each point. John will recall how hard I used to try to get to H’burg for meetings… now I travel to the ‘burg and Lancaster just to see frack-free zones and get fresher air. The gasoline prices? God provides… I combine ministry volunteer trips as much as I can, and camp in people’s driveways when I can soften the trip with an overnight stop.

 

You must understand that our fracked-up water flows SOUTH to…. y’all. Some of it also flows north into NY state.

Bear in mind that what will happen in your area has actually already been decided by Big Money, long before you will see the white trucks (that are now white or red trucks here). It is far bigger geographically and economically than was the strip-mining (rape) of the Appalachians…. If you hear the helicopter traffic suddenly increase bigtime overhead, that’s the seismic crew planning where they will be digging. (The people who knew ahead of time,  and benefited biggest financially, are the ones who you may not have noticed have been improving their properties and/or expanding their business footprint.)

Hereabouts, it has all slowed a tad due to price manipulations (there’s a current “glut” on gas), but it will come back up soon I am sure. The gas peeps are sure enough they’ll be here for a long time that they have bought and built their own hotels and barracks– and brought their women to supplement our own young ladies’ interest in the nice men who are so lonely, so far from homes back in Oil Country.

We pray for these men, most of whom we think come here to earn a fair wage for their families… they’re just the guys in the trenches. We befriend them when we have opportunities to do so.

~Susan

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