Friday, April 22, 2011

Another Earth Day, Another Blowout

Last year it was a BP rig in the Gulf of Mexico. This year it was a Chesapeake well in Bradford County, PA. April 20 is becoming a dangerous time for people living in the drill zone; let's hope it doesn't become an annual tradition.

photo by Frank Finan
Late Tuesday night a well near Canton, PA blew out during a fracking operation. Thousands of gallons of frack fluid poured out of the well, across a farmer's field and into Towanda Creek, which eventually spills into the Susquehanna River. The PA Department of Environmental Protection wasn't notified until the wee hours of Wednesday morning (April 20) and no one bothered to notify the cattle - or the farmer - until later in the day, though a crew did put up some barbed-wire fence in a hurry. Still, there's no telling cattle to stay away from the salty toxic waste....

Farming in the drill zone is tough. Just ask Carol French and Carolyn Knapp, two Bradford County dairy farmers who recently traveled to Brooktondale to talk about the rural impacts of industrialized drilling. One farmer had to sell his cattle after drillers sited a well behind the barn, cutting off access to his fields. His return on the drilling investment: $400/month in royalties and contaminated water.

Then there's the matter of forking over a few more pennies per hundredweight so the milk haulers won't bail out to drive trucks for the gas companies. And it's not just PA - NY dairy farmers are being hit by the added expense as well. And sawdust .... French says that with drillers buying up all the local supplies of sawdust (they mix it with drill cuttings before sending them to a landfill) she's resorted to grinding feed for bedding.

"Industrialized drilling affects everything," Knapp said.The shale shale play is huge and, gas companies point out, they expect to be producing gas for the next 30 to 50 years. Given the impacts on agriculture, both women wonder how long they can keep on farming.

"Not a day goes by that we don't discuss when we'll have to leave the farm," Knapp said. 


  1. This is an excellent article, Sue. You've brought up things that most people are not covering. It is tragic what dairy farmers are going through.

  2. Good work, scary as hell. You are right that fracking signifies the end of rural life as we know it. For those who won't read this, the photo paints a thousand words.