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Personal account from the Marcellus Shale

In early 20
11, Kimberlie McEvoy's water well went bad, changes she blames on hydraulic fracturing of wells about one mile from her home north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in Butler County. Below she tells her story of how this contaminated water affected the health of those who came in contact with it.

Even though her property value has plummeted 50-percent, she is still planning to take a loss and move to a non-fracking area to protect the health of herself, her  fiancé and her 3-year-old daughter. Below is Kim's story from November 2011.

November 2011

My name is Kimberlie McEvoy, I live in Connoquenessing Township, Butler County, Pa and I have BLACK WATER.

My nightmare started in February of 2011 shortly after REX Energy, a State College based company, started to drill for natural gas. They used a technique called “high volume hydraulic fracturing” to drill two horizontal wells.  The wellheads are approximately one mile from my home.  Up until this point, I had clean, drinkable water.  There were no other changes in the area.  The drilling was the only thing that changed in my environment.

The first indication that our water was contaminated happened in the shower.  One day, the water was a light gray and had a slight odor of sulfur.  This was just the beginning.  As the days went on, the water turned black and the odor intensified, taking on metallic odor and taste.  My fiancé Peter and I were forced to endure these conditions.  We had little alternative.  My dogs refused to drink the water out of their bowl, preferring to go thirsty or wait to be let outside to drink from a mud puddle. Looking back, they obviously knew what I would later discover; I wish that I had heeded their warning.  Soon my hair started to fall out, my fingernails grew downwards wrapping themselves around the front of my fingers, and I would become dizzy -almost passing out- in the shower. 

Peter complained of pains in his legs, and his sinuses hurt. Thankfully, I listened to mother’s intuition and refused to allow my then two year old daughter to bathe in the water. I would take her to a friend’s house or give her a sponge bath with bottled water or baby wipes. Later a physician told us that the symptoms Peter and I were experiencing were those of arsenic poisoning.

I called Book and Proch, a local water well driller to have them check the water in my well.  They advised me to call REX Energy.  I did, and in three days my water was tested.  Without showing me the results, they brought a water buffalo -an above ground water tank- to my residence.  Later I found out the tests showed elevated levels of manganese, iron, and ARSENIC in my water. They assured me that I was the only person having water problems.

It was the summer of 2011 when I experienced my first flaring.  It was frightening it to see that giant flame coming out of the ground.  I cried at the thought of what additional hardships this new chapter might bring to my family.  We became prisoners in our own home.  If any of us spent more than five minutes outside we became dizzy.  The air was thick and dense, almost suffocating.

With few options, I decided to take my concerns to my township.  I showed them pictures of black water in my bathtub.  The supervisors told me that they would check into my concerns.  They also told me that nobody else was having any problems with their water; that I was the only one.  I soon discovered that that this was not true.  A few days later I found people in my community with similar problems.

It is now November of 2011 and there are over a dozen people in my community with water buffaloes.  Others are having similar problems but do not have water buffaloes.  One family’s previously healthy dog began vomiting up blood and died on the floor.  Tests on their water showed toluene, a man-made toxin used in paint thinner.  They had a water buffalo for a short period until REX Energy and the DEP decided that their water was safe to bathe in.  They removed the buffalo and now bring in bottled water for drinking only.  Another neighbor has spent over $7,000 trying to take care of the problem on his own.

Just like in my case REX Energy told them that gas drilling is not to blame for the water contamination.  Instead they point at natural causes like too much rain, decomposing leaves, or slugs crawling in the wellhead.  Do they think we are stupid? I have lived here fifteen years and never had problems like this. I worry myself sick that one day they will come and take our water buffalo, like they have to others who have complained, and my family will be left without clean water. At times, the stress and depression are worse than the physical ills from which we suffer.  I don’t know what it is like to sleep anymore.  It is unbearable.

God gave us clean air and water so we can survive, and now those gifts are being taken from all Pennsylvanians in the name of greed.  Even though I will lose thousands of dollars, I have decided to attempt to sell my home. According to my realtor, my $120,000 home is now worth $60,000.  This is not enough to pay off my remaining mortgage. 

I walk through this world feeling sad and homeless.  For peace of mind, Peter and I have decided to move to Oregon where there is no shale. Although Pennsylvania is my home, I can no longer live in a state that doesn’t care about its people or environment.  We cannot afford to lose any more of our hard-earned money and I must protect my little girl.  I am thankful for all the wonderful people I have met and who have supported me.  I am still going to try to help others afflicted by this wrong, albeit from a safe distance.  To anybody reading this please speak out on the matter of drilling.  Our very freedom depends on it.

Thank you,
Kimberlie McEvoy

Kimberlie and Skylar
November 19, 2011

Darrell Smitsky's story
Stephanie Hallowich's story

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