Professor addresses Middlesex concerns
Cranberry Eagle
Written by:
February 27, 2013

MIDDLESEX TWP — More than 75 people concerned about Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction listened attentively Thursday night as a Duquesne University professor discussed the potential effects of gas drilling on well water.

John Stolz, a professor of environmental biology and the director of Duquesne's Center for Environmental Research and Education, told the standing-room-only crowd that he moved his mother and father from Long Island, N.Y., to Gibsonia, just south of Middlesex, and has frequented businesses in the township on numerous occasions when visiting from his home in Shaler.

“I am up here every weekend,” Stolz said. “So I am more than just a professor from Duquesne.”

No new gas wells have been drilled in the township.

He warned that drilling companies use creative means to hide potential dangers of drilling from landowners.

“You can believe what Range Resources says: 'Drilling is only the beginning,'” Stolz said. “This is a game changer. The game involves us, and they're playing for keeps.”

Stolz, who has been doing research on the unusable water at 30 homes in the Woodlands in Connoquenessing Township that the homeowners blame on gas wells near the neighborhood, showed a video he shot from a helicopter.

The video shows forested Pennsylvania landscapes and secluded farms with well pads and impoundment ponds.

Stolz explained that fracturing, or “fracking,” the shale involves a mixture of chemicals and water. He talked about removing the water to the surface and explained the ways those chemicals could find their way into drinking water.

He also warned that Pennsylvania's 300,000 existing and abandoned oil and gas wells, plus the miles of abandoned underground mines, can cause problems for aquifers when disturbed by Marcellus Shale gas drilling.

Stolz said wells are cased with cement and steel where they pass through the water tables that feed wells to prevent fracking chemicals from entering groundwater.

But he said the casing requires inspection, and with 10,000 drilling permits having been issued statewide, there have been times when the state Department of Environmental Protection did not have enough trained inspectors to examine casings.

He said some inspectors have been shown to be poorly trained.

“Inspectors get their orders from Harrisburg, and Gov. (Tom) Corbett wants us to be the new Texas,” Stolz said. “He wants us to be the new energy center of the world.”

Audience members had many questions that were answered by Stolz.

Butler County Commissioner Jim Eckstein and two of the three Middlesex supervisors attended the meeting, which was hosted by Marcellus Outreach Middlesex.

Susan Hart of Middlesex called the program “very informative.”

She said she was amazed at the various chemicals and gases that could leak into water sources as a result of drilling.

“It makes you worry,” Hart said. “I wonder, are we going to have the repercussions of people getting sick?”