John Slesinger: Cambria County PA
Excerpt from “Shalefield Stories - Personal and Collected Testimonies”
Published by Steel Valley Printers
Water Contamination: TDS - 3,590 ppm
Industry Dishonesty/Disregard: Apparent withholding of information that jeopardized public health
Oversight Failure: Neglecting to act on information about failed well casing.
Loss of Property Value
A coal company owns property adjacent to mine and leased this property for drilling. I was unaware that a gas well was going to be drilled 2,700 feet from my house. Shortly after the well was drilled, our water well became contaminated. This occurred in December 2009, and I have been hauling my own water ever since. I have never been supplied with a drop of drinking water since the drillers, T&F Exploration, contaminated my well. I live in a rural area that was beautiful and once had safe, perfectly good water. This is no longer the case.
The contaminants in my water pointed to gas well contaminants. Of course the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the driller denied this. Acceptable levels of TDS, total dissolved solids, for drinking water are 500 ppm; the total dissolved solids found in my water, after testing, were 3,590 ppm. I am currently involved in a lawsuit, which is still in the “discovery” phase. It can still take a year or more to go to court.
A gas well expert with over 25 years’ experience, hired by my attorney, met with me and reviewed all the drilling records and water samples. He found the answer in the drilling records. Drilling logs show that when cementing the casing in 2009, 15 barrels of cement (about 5,600 pounds), plus water and drilling fluids, disappeared into what is called a “thief zone,” or a fracture, which obviously led to my drinking water fracture. This happened in December 2009 and again in October 2010 when the well was abandoned and cemented shut. The documented loss of cement and the amount of chemicals in my water match. The expert hired by my attorney says that the DEP and the driller had these documents the whole time, while they both denied that any proof existed. Documents will show this proof which is described as undeniable. The DEP signed off on a cement casing job that they knew had been done incorrectly. The DEP lied and the drilling company treated me as though I did not exist.
At one point, I requested permission to enter the property when the drilling was in process. I watched as black, foamy fracking fluid filled a plastic lined pit to overflowing. Some of this fluid was captured and trucked away; the rest was just buried right on the property, plastic pit and all. I called and reported this. The drilling company was cited for “improper capsulation of waste.” I am not sure that any fine was issued. I was also promised that core samples would be taken to assess contamination, but never heard a word from the DEP again.
I have been fighting this for 777 days. I want to move, but I am stuck in limbo right now. Who will buy a house with no potable water? There are disclosures on seller agreements now regarding leased property. It must be disclosed whether or not there is a lease on your property or neighboring properties. This will certainly affect the willingness of a lender to grant mortgage approval.
I feel violated and helpless. These people have control of my life.
Finally, this past week a lawsuit was filed in Cambria County Court against the driller, T&F Exploration. I can now share the details of what my attorney’s group found, and I thank all of them. Even if the court does not find in my favor, I now know the truth.
- John Slesinger