February 6, 2017
By Wanda Guthrie

It’s been close to six years now, a tragic anniversary, for 52 families in a Butler County community who lost their clean well water. Anyone who has lost water service for a day or two knows how difficult it can be. Imagine having to go without water for years.

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A family prepares to move away from the Woodlands. How do you learn to live without water? Julia Rendleman/ Post Gazette August 2012

 

Families in The Woodlands community still rely on a weekly donation of 20 gallons of clean water for drinking, cooking, and brushing their teeth, which they receive from volunteers operating a water bank at the nearby White Oak Springs Presbyterian Church in Renfrew. This support falls far short of what the American Red Cross considers the minimum required for an emergency – two gallons per person per day while, when water goes bad, it’s not even safe for showering, cleaning, or other uses. Even flushing toilets is discouraged.

To date, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has not made a determination on the cause of the contamination, but it occurred after fracking began in the community. Without an official determination, no arrangements have been made to permanently replace the water; something the DEP can direct the company responsible, in this case, Rex Energy, to do.

Unfortunately, The Woodlands is not the only community that has been impacted. Dimock, PA in Susquehanna County in Northeastern PA is another example of one community where multiple families have lost their private water supplies. The company responsible there, Cabot Oil & Gas, stopped delivering clean water years ago. Across the state, nearly 300 cases of fracking contaminating water supplies have been confirmed by the DEP.

Access to clean water is the primary concern for affected families, but they’re also concerned about what the contamination has done to their property values. For most of us, our home is our greatest investment.

The “Water for The Woodlands” campaign aims to raise $5,000; enough money to purchase water for 5 months, for the affected families. Thanks to a matching grant of $2,500 from a generous donor, our goal is to raise at least $2,500 using a crowd-funding site operated by the Unitarian Universalist church called Faithify. The campaign will run for 45 days and started on January 10.

A group of faith leaders who have led a campaign for a MORALtorium on fracking in Pennsylvania organized the campaign to raise not only funds, but awareness of the issue. The government and industry must be held to account for their failure to help these families. The situation in The Woodlands also demonstrates just one of the reasons the group is calling for a statewide moratorium on fracking.

Friends of the Harmed, with the assistance of Marcellus Protest, Westmoreland Citizens Group, projects of the Thomas Merton Center, and Marcellus Outreach Butler, have contributed and produced a book, Shalefield Stories, drawing attention to the dirty industrial fracking process. Citizen contributions and sales of the book are responsible for keeping this unresolved disaster in the public eye.

More than 900 peer-reviewed studies now make a collective case for an end to fracking. The studies examine a wide range of impacts to water quality, air quality, health, safety, quality of life, economics, and more.

We encourage Thomas Merton Center members and friends to help with a donation to Faithify. You can find the link at: https://www.faithify.org/projects/


Wanda Guthrie is a member of MORALtorium and Convener of the EcoJustice Working Group.