Appalachian Basin

Water, Water, Everywhere, Lots and Lots to Drink Natural Gas Free

In New York, where I recently bought my first home, horizontal hydraulic fracturing for natural gas development is not currently permitted because there is a statewide moratorium that has been in place for almost five years.  Interestingly, without any wells nearby, we still have some of the same issues with our water shown in some of the anti natural gas pictures claiming water contamination from shale development.

My fiancé and I just bought our very first home.  We built a modular across the street from where I grew up.   I considered this extremely lucky because many of my dear friends moved out of state in search of work.  With building a home there comes a lot of different minor issues along the road, including installing and testing a water well.

I have seen tons of pictures of dirty water brought to meetings where a few people from Pennsylvania claim the natural gas industry contaminated their water. So, when my own brand new well water came out looking way too similar to the Sautners’ and now Stevens’ brown jug, it gave me pause. How could my water look this way without any natural gas development nearby?

We live in an old gravel grown over gravel pit a football field off the road.  Our well is 82 feet down and we didn’t even have to crack bedrock.  This was great news in our eyes  because it saved us $1,500.00 in the blink of an eye.

From the movie Truthland, we saw a faucet light on fire in Guildford, New York.  For those of you who don’t know Guilford is a 20 minute drive from my new home.  This shows we may already have methane in our water, and we actually do, despite the unfortunate lack of natural gas wells in our community.

In New York State to move into a home you have to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, or a CO.  To get a CO you need several different things.  One thing you need is a basic water test to ensure it is potable.  The basic water test looks for bacteria such as e-coli or salmonella.  Our test came back clean.

With the new well not being run, our water looked strangely like the dirty pitcher picture we see. Our pitcher is first, followed by the Sautner’s jug.


So I had to know what made my water look like this.  Turns out, there isn’t only methane in the water. Since the basic test was not even close to a baseline water test like people near natural gas development receive prior to it taking place as it only tested for bacteria, we knew we needed more comprehensive results.

Now, I feel the need to explain a little further. Yes, everyone must do a water test prior to moving into a new home, but the type of test required could not act as a baseline no matter how clean the results come back–they only check for bacteria. My co-worker, Nicole on the other hand, who lives in an area with active natural gas development in Pennsylvania, gets a very different kind of water test prior to new activity and when it completes, and quarterly.

With her test, the well must be purged first (or run for a period of time) to ensure the water is coming from the well and not water that has been sitting in the pipes. Then an independent laboratory official takes readings and samples which are sealed and sent out for testing. The test she receives is looking for much more than just bacteria and has to be conducted in an official manner with set parameters.

I did my own test, with no instructions to purge, and then dropped the sample off in a refrigerator at an office where it would later be tested. Do you see how different our tests were and which one would be more official?  Brian Oram has an article on page 15 of the Northeast ONG Magazine that explains differences in water testing further.

We did get a more in depth water test done and our results came in with explanations for why the water looked the way it did.  When our water well was drilled the color came from iron and sediment.  I asked what would fix it and they told me I could get a water system or I could simply run the water on a daily basis.

I was a little hesitant to get the system before I tried every other option, my father hooked up a hose and we purged the well for 3 days straight.  Three days later we unhooked the hose, went upstairs, turned on the faucet and we drew a glass of water.

I was shocked to see our water after a simple purge (below).


Spoiler Alert!  The funny part about it was I watched FrackNation a few nights before this and in the movie we saw the Sautner’s could not produce the brown water from their faucet every time they tried to; it only happened occasionally.  When asked, they told the director he could have a jug they kept in their basement from a day the water came out looking dirty.  When they turned their water on and gathered a sample for the director, their water looked exactly like my clean water picture.

This is my story, the honest story about a dirty water well.  At this point, I would not be able to produce any more dirty pitchers unless I stopped using my well for a couple of days.  It wouldn’t take long simply because our well has high iron and sediment.  This isn’t anything that will hurt us, I haven’t broken out in rashes, and I certainly don’t lie on the floor after a shower (as the Sautners have claimed they do) because I am dizzy.  Maybe it isn’t the water after all, maybe it is simply the well.


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