This woman is Sherry Vargson, and in this video she is lighting her water on fire as it comes out of the faucet. The water is flammable because of increased methane levels, which she says are caused by fracking. Science, though, isn’t so sure.
The video was posted by the “Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition” whose mission statement on their YouTube channel says: “We educate people on the negative effects of gas drilling,” so obviously they have an agenda. But, this isn’t the first, only, or most shocking example of people with flammable water.
A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in May of last year did find a link between fracking and methane contamination of the drinking water supply. The study specifically looked at the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, throughout the northeast, including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. Other studies have come to different conclusions.
The woman (and faucet) in this video are at a farm in Granville Township, which is on the Marcellus shale formation. The video description says that “Chesapeake Energy has drilled one well and installed compressor and metering stations and a gathering pipeline,” in the area. “She said her water became contaminated with methane after maintenance activities at the site in June 2010.”
She says that before the installations, the methane in the water tested at 0.01 milligrams per liter, and now the water tests as high as 64 milligrams per liter. “Obviously something has changed.” The video is a part of “The Marcus Shale Reality Tour.”
Basically, science isn’t settled about methane contamination. A recent story claimed that “The Whole Fracking Debate Is Based On Bad Science,” that both gas companies and opponents twist facts and rely on bad science, sometimes misleading the public. From the story:
Lubell said the situation, which happens on both sides of a debate, is called “motivated reasoning.” Rational people insist on believing things that aren’t true, in part because of feedback from other people who share their views, he said.
Vengosh noted the problem of spinning science isn’t new, or limited to one side in the gas drilling controversy. For example, industry supporters have claimed that drilling never pollutes water wells, when state regulators have confirmed cases where it has. He says the key point is that science is slow, and research into gas drilling’s many possible effects are in the early stages, and much more work remains to be done.
“Everyone takes what they want to see,” Vengosh said, adding that he hopes that the fracking debate will become more civilized as scientists obtain more hard data.
So, basically, take this video with a grain of salt.
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