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Citizen Groups: Landowners, Prep for Possible Drilling Contamination

PHOTO: Citizen groups are warning landowners to be prepared for possible contamination as a result of fracking. Photo by Ed Wade.
PHOTO: Citizen groups are warning landowners to be prepared for possible contamination as a result of fracking. Photo by Ed Wade.
June 17, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia citizen groups say they're helping landowners prepare for potential air and water contamination from Marcellus natural gas drilling. Doddridge County landowner Christina Woods works with her local watershed association and with West Virginia Host Farms, a group that helps landowners connect with researchers who can test their water and air.

Woods said she could have used that kind of help a year ago, when a company drilling a well a mile from her home dumped fracking waste on the road.

"The smell was so strong that my throat started hurting immediately, and my tongue went numb and tingly," Woods recalled. "All summer, I tried to get the DEP to take care of it. They said it just wasn't toxic enough to warrant a full cleanup."

The company claimed it was an accident. Eventually, the DEP fined the drillers $50,000, although Woods said that took five months.

Woods is helping organize a Wellness and Water Conference at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, on the last weekend of June.

The West Virginia Host Farms group can help landowners get their water and air tested before problems show up, she said, adding that having a baseline can be important, if it's necessary to prove that contamination is related to the drilling.

"Even though we can't seem to do anything as landowners, we can let researchers come onto our land if we're being drilled on, take water samples and air samples and see what happens," she said.

Woods had no idea how powerless they all would feel once the problems developed, she added.

"It's not right what you have to go through to get somebody to make them be responsible. It's so wrong. No one should have go though what we went through," she said, urging landowners to prepare ahead of time for the possibility of contamination problems.

More information about the testing program is available at www.wvhostfarms.org.

Information about the conference, "Wellness and Water II: What is the Future of Our Drinking Water?" scheduled for June 29 and 30 in Buckhannon, is at http://ohvec.org/events_calendar/Wellness-and-Water-II.pdf.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV