DEP Manipulates Law on Fracking Complaint, Leaves Family Without Water
It’s day one and Christine Pepper’s family has no water. There’s no water for the family to drink, to shower or wash their clothes so they’re making calls to inlaws and saving single gallon plastic jugs. It’s day one, and the Pepper family has 45 days until they know what’s happened. It started when Christine splashed water on her face from the kitchen faucet and a burning sensation shot through her skin. “It felt like my face was on fire for 20 minutes,” she said. Later red bumps developed. Not shortly after there was no water at all. The Pepper's spring-fed well, which had produced water for more than 50 years, went completely dry.
“I’m not saying we’ve never had low water," explains Christine’s husband Cory, "but it always comes right back, but it’s stayed dry for two weeks. And ... I’ve never seen it! I’m 42, I’ve lived here 42 years, and my Dad was 18 when he bought this house.”
The Peppers live on Southside Road in Leroy Twp. Bradford County, where Public Herald reported on drinking water problems in the documentary Triple Divide. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has pending Gas Migration Investigation (GMI) cases throughout the area, with Leroy Twp. being famous for two GMI’s in the last three years: the Atgas 2H well blowout in April 2011, and the Morse 5H well subsurface problems in 2012. Both wells are within three miles of each other.
Cory and Christine Pepper live 1,000 feet from the Morse 5H well and 3 miles from the Atgas 2H well, each operated by Chesapeake Energy Corporation.
According to DEP, the Morse 5H well is currently in “inactive status” due to regulatory procedures. But, there’s a second well on the pad—the 3H—which the Peppers were told was put into production the same week their well went dry. “They opened up the [3H] well and the next day we have problems,” told Cory, who happens to work locally for the gas industry but has been skeptical that fracking had anything to do with stories of water contamination in the area.
The phrase “opened up” is another way of saying the gas well went “on line” or into production. Essentially, the company pulls a plug and the gas is released, ready to go to market. When Cory saw his family’s spring dry up, and found out that the 3H well had been put online, he and Christine did the only thing to do; they called DEP to submit a complaint. Once a homeowner submits a drinking water complaint the Department has 45 days to make a determination about whether oil and gas activities have impacted the water supply. The complaint gets a number, the Pepper’s is #302587, and day one for DEP starts on the receipt of the complaint. But it’s hardly ever cut and dry. Christine talked to DEP on a Friday but as Cory puts it, “They told her it was an inconvenience for them to come out and test it on a Friday. So, they came out Tuesday [Feb. 11]. That was day one with DEP.”
As Christine recalls, “DEP came that day [Tuesday] and told me that bare minimum it would be 45 days to several years before they come up with a conclusive decision. And the one gentleman told me that it was highly unlikely it had anything to do with the drilling over there.” The Pepper family is no stranger to DEP or impacts from fracking. Christine’s mother is Carolyn Knapp, and Carolyn has spent years educating Bradford County about the impacts from drilling while criticizing DEP for how they handle water complaints. So since this isn’t Carolyn’s first water rodeo, Christine had her mother act as the liaison for her complaint.
Public Herald started collecting DEP complaint files when they first became available in Spring 2013; in previous years no one could access complaints. DEP files complaints into two categories: water complaints and general complaints. Water complaints deal mostly with drinking water. General complaints deal with everything else; however that doesn't mean that general complaints don't also deal with water. As of June 2013 Public Herald found Bradford County had 285 water supply complaints. Of those, 10 complaints were filed for Leroy Twp., seven being water complaints. The remaining three general complaints have at least two concerning drinking water from spills; one involving a 4,700 gallon spill of hydrochloric acid, a component of fracking fluid, on July 4, 2013.
To see all of the Bradford County complaint files visit Public Herald’s new #fileroom website. Carolyn knows about these complaints, “The neighbors have had … ” Christine interjects, “black water, no water, methane water.”
Now that Christine is having to communicate with DEP she’s beginning to experience the stories her mother talked about. “I felt like they were questioning my integrity. DEP made me feel like I was wrong for believing [the well pad] has anything to do with it. And said if I wasn’t going to cooperate they weren’t going to help me … completely disregarding the fact that I have no water.”
Herein lies one part of the problem with complaint investigations: DEP's discriminatory attitude and treatment of citizens who report water problems. As Carolyn explains, "A lot of other people would say forget about it, and it’s not worth the hassle.”
“There should be a provision in the law that requires them to supply water,” says Carolyn. “They don’t understand for 45 days what it’s like to live out of a bottle.” But there is a provision. Pennsylvania Act 13 provides the “presumption of liability” clause under section 3218 which holds the industry liable for supplying water to nearby complaints and gives DEP 45 days to conduct and complete an investigation.
“Operators found to have impacted a water supply within the time and distance provisions of the presumption of liability must supply temporary potable water until the supply is restored or replaced.” (DEP)
However, DEP personnel changed the meaning of the law and told Carolyn in an email that the Department cannot provide Christine water and the presumption of liability only applies once DEP makes a determination before or after the 45 days.
Then on Feb. 28, Department personnel Jennifer Means sent Carolyn another email stating that DEP can require a company to provide a temporary water supply on day one of the complaint under the presumption of liability, but only for complaints of pollution.
But Carolyn never questioned the need for sampling of the water supply. She questioned how it could be done if there was no water. Carolyn told DEP on day one of the complaint that the problem was both pollution and diminution.
Means emphasized to Carolyn how the department has no evidence leading them to believe the Morse gas well could of caused Pepper’s water complaint. Chesapeake Energy made the same statements in a separate email.
Yet Public Herald uncovered documents that the Morse well has a dangerous history which the department is fully aware of but chose to ignore as evidence. Recently, the Leighton family who live near the Peppers, sued Chesapeake Energy for drinking water contamination related to the Morse 5H well. Their case references some of these problems:
The Morse 5H well is also responsible for blowing out and impacting a creek down the road on Tim Pepper's farm [Cory's brother], an incident documented in Triple Divide. With the Leighton’s case, Tim Pepper’s creek blowout, and other incidents happening within the past two years, DEP has evidence on the Morse well for the presumptive clause. But, instead they’ve left the Pepper family without water and manipulated the law.
“If they took care of the landowners and the local people you’d be so much further ahead, but they won’t. And that’s what pissed me off,” Cory protests. If the Peppers water supply turns out to be safe to drink, it doesn't restore their trust in the department or Chesapeake Energy. For complaint #302587 Christine affirms, “It’s not just my life I’m concerned about; it’s their life.”
Christine Pepper's sons watch as dirty water drips from the faucet. photo: jbpribanic
Leighton Family Lawsuit Against Chesapeake Energy Involving Morse 5H Well
Morse Well Plat
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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