Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge spoke to Philadelphia area business people Wednesday on the economic potential of the state’s natural gas deposits. While the Ridge event was closed to the public and the press, a group of activists outside the event protested the industry’s impact on water supplies.
Outside the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Philadelphia several dozen people held signs, calling for an end to “fracking.” Fracking is the common name for a process that injects water, sand and chemicals into the ground to help release natural gas deeply buried in what is known as the Marcellus Shale.
Susquehanna County resident Rebecca Roter held up a bottle of cloudy water that she said came from a house in neighboring Bradford County.
“I would say it’s gray, and it looks like, bentonite is a drilling mud they use to drill, and the first time I saw that I thought of bentonite. Not something I would want to drink, shower in, or give to my pets, my family,” said Roter.
Roter says the abundant drilling for natural gas upstate is polluting residential water wells.
The Department of Environmental Protection just issued a million-dollar fine to Chesapeake Energy for contaminating drinking water in Bradford County.
But industry officials say drilling can be done safely.
“It’s in our business interest. This is a long term commitment to our region. And we’re absolutely dedicated to ensuring our water resources are protected,” said Travis Windle spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Windle added that the industry supports new regulations requiring stronger gas wells to keep fracking chemicals and methane out of the water supply.