Triple Divide History Lesson While driving through eastern Ohio yesterday, I stopped for a stroll along the Cayuhoga. In the language of the First Americans, the name meant “crooked river.” For other Americans born centuries later, the name would come to mean “the river that caught on fire from pollution.” The famous Cayuhoga fire of 1969 was blamed on heavy oil slicks, and was one of several that afflicted the river during more than a century of unregulated industrial waste dumping. The image of the river burning has been credited with a surge in the environmental movement and the political support needed to pass the Clean Water Act. Fast-forward to September 2013, as Ohioans turn out in the hundreds to watch different images of rivers threatened and rivers defended—this time in the form of Triple Divide, a documentary about the damage caused by shale gas development.
In this special report, energyNOW! Chief Correspondent Tyler Suiters interviews residents of Bradford County in northern Pennsylvania, the heart of the Marcellus Shale. The residents blame nearby gas drilling for methane contamination in their water wells, while the energy companies say they aren't responsible. One family tells Suiters they are ready to leave Pennsylvania for good because of their water problems. Suiters also meets a doctor from the University of Pennsylvania who is searching for potential links between gas drilling and health complaints.
Ever since high-profile water contamination cases were linked to drilling in Dimock, Pa., in late 2008, drilling companies themselves have been diligently collecting water samples from private wells before they drill, according to several industry consultants who have been working with the data. While Pennsylvania regulations now suggest pre-testing water wells within 1,000 feet of a planned gas well, companies including Chesapeake Energy, Shell and Atlas have been compiling samples from a much larger radius—up to 4,000 feet from every well.