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Exclusive: Pennsylvania Family Dealing with Water Contamination Linked to Fracking Industry

Julie Dermansky

The Chichura family has flammable well water, most likely due to a fracking job gone wrong in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna County. Their water well, along with those of four of their neighbors, was allegedly contaminated with methane in the fall of 2011, shortly after Cabot Oil started drilling operations near their home.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmed the Chichuras had methane in their water on September 21, 2011, and advised them to equip their well with a working vent to avoid a possible ignition.

The contamination of wells is not an anomaly. The DEP identified 245 sites potentially contaminated by the fracking industry between 2008 and 2014.

As leaseholders with Cabot, the Chichuras believed the company would take care of them if anything went wrong. “Accidents will happen,” was the family’s thinking when their water first went bad, Elaine Chichura told DeSmog.

Triple Divide: Interview with Mark Ruffalo on Fracking Documentary

“Triple Divide” is a timely cautionary documentary about the fracking industry in Pennsylvania. Clean water is the star of this film. The toxic impact of the fracking industry is the villain.

The film is a PublicHerald.org production, co-directed by journalists Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman, and it features actor Mark Ruffalo as one of the narrators. 


Mark Ruffalo in Zuccotti Park with Occupy Wall Street protesters ©2011 Julie Dermansky

Using powerful camera work and informative animation, “Triple Divide” offers gripping first-hand accounts from landowners whose lives have been negatively impacted by fracking.   

Industry leaders, scientists, lawyers and politicians share the screen with Pennsylvania's rural landscape, defaced by the influx of industrial development. 

The movie raises the question, “How are state regulators and industry handling the impact of fracking?” and answers it by presenting examples of violations of state regulations.

“Triple Divide” presents example after example of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) doing little to curtail the fracking industry's rule-breaking practices despite the agency’s awareness of the violations. 

President Obama reaffirmed his support for the natural gas industry — which is propelled by fracking — in his recent State of the Union address, with the condition it be extracted safely.

But “Triple Divide” shows how lack of enforcement and inadequate regulations threaten some of Pennsylvania's most pristine waterways. 

Watch the trailer for Triple Divide:

Triple Divide - Trailer from Public Herald on Vimeo.

DeSmogBlog discussed “Triple Divide” with its directors and Mark Ruffalo. 

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