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Statement to Bradford County Commissioners; Crystal Stroud, Towanda Pennsylvania 4/28/11

April 29, 2011

Crystal Stroud reads a prepared statement about her ordeal to the Bradford County commissioners. (Source: Review Photo/JAMES LOEWENSTEIN)

Crystal Stroud’s public statement to the Bradford County Commissioners on the morning of Thursday April 28, 2011 appears below in its entirety:

“Thank you for allowing me to speak. My Name is Crystal Stroud. I am a formerly healthy, 29 year old Hairstylist at a downtown Towanda salon, and my husband and I are local business owners with a 4 year old little boy, who were living out “our American Dream” until 3 weeks ago on Monday April 11th, 2011. That is the day we were notified our water well was contaminated with Barium, Chloride, Strontium, Manganese, Lead, Methane, Radiological material, and Radon from the drilling of the natural gas well 1200 feet from our property — the water that we had been drinking, cooking with and showering in.

Prior to that day I, too, believed in the Goose that was going to lay the Golden Egg in Bradford County. I leased my two acres of property for $5,000 to Chesapeake. We used the money to start fixing up our house, adding a pool, and thinking we were increasing our property value. Little did I know we were signing away life as we knew it.
Three weeks prior to April 11th I became ill. My hair started falling out. I was having heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and stomach cramps. My husband feared I was having panic attacks and suggested I see a doctor. I went to my family physician and the only thing they could find was that my heart rate and blood pressure were elevated. They sent me for blood work on my thyroid, those test results came back within normal range. They then recommended I take a medication for anxiety, as they didn’t know what else could be afflicting me. Three days went by and my hands began to tremble and I would lose my balance as I stood from a sitting position. My speech started to become slurred and at that point I made another phone call to the doctor’s office. I told them, “Something is wrong, This isn’t right.” I was told to continue the medication, hoping that it would “kick in soon.”

Then on Monday April 11th, I received the phone call from Benchmark Analytics. They said my well water results were in and they were a major concern. My reply was “ What do you mean? I have been extremely ill for the past 3 weeks and we can’t figure out why” Their reply was “This could be the cause —  Barium is known to cause the symptoms you’re experiencing” I then called my doctors office and son’s pediatrician who then ordered blood work, as the Lead and Barium levels in our water was a major concern

After more blood tests and research they found I had extremely high levels of Barium in my body at a range of 110 normal range being 0 or less than 10 . When Barium accumulates in the body, it usually affects the functions of the nervous system. Barium poisoning displays symptoms that are similar to flu or anxiety which is why it is not strange to find the condition misdiagnosed as flu or anxiety. Common symptoms of Barium poisoning include:
1. Muscle weakness and tremors
2. Difficulty in breathing
3. Stomach irritations accompanied by diarrhea
4. Anxiety
5. Cardiac irregularities such as abnormally high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat from profoundly low potassium levels and eventually
6. Paralysis

When I contacted Chesapeake (who I signed a lease with) and told them my well was contaminated, they sent out a Mr. Rick Hall. He came to my home and sat at the table and looked over my water results. He started by trying to explain away the substances found in my water.

When I asked him to explain the Radiologicals found in my water, he flipped to the last page and said “Oh the radon (which was 1.2 pCi/L when we purchased the house four years ago, and is now 154.5 pCi/L) ?” I said “No, the Radiologicals, Gross Alpha and Gross Beta.” His reply was “Oh I don’t know anything about them” (which surprised me as Benchmark informed me they were direct contaminates of the natural gas industry). He then asked me, “Didn’t I realize anything was wrong with my water while I was drinking it? I said. “No! Here let me show you.” I then drew a glass of water from the refrigerators’ water and ice maker, I held it up to him and said, “Clear, now wouldn’t you drink this?” His reply was “Yah, looks good to me”

This water was clear, but yet had so many chemicals in it, it required an emergency phone call from the water testing company. Mr. Rick Hall stated he would need to “Pass the Buck” to Chief (gas company), saying they were the closest well. I had to contact them. I told him they had not fracked the well next to my property and he stated, “It’s a common misconception that fracking is what contaminates well water. It’s the actual drilling process that causes the first phase of water contamination.”

However, before leaving Mr. Hall could not give me a phone number to contact someone from Chief and had no clue even who I would speak with. After 3 days of phone calls to every phone number I found online associated with Chief, I finally spoke to a Mr. Richard Adams who told me “Lo and behold” a Mr. Rick Hall had called him…. Yet, Mr. Hall told me he had no clue who to call with Chief. Since 3 weeks ago when all this transpired, I have still not seen a Chief representative at my home nor have I received a phone call. I have however had people hang up on me and tell me that they would pass on the information, never returning my calls. My well still has not been vented (with Methane levels of 32.4 mg/L) nor have I been offered water or a water buffalo, from either company.

I have gone door to door around my neighborhood warning people about my well contamination, hoping to prevent this from happening to someone else. Every neighbor I have talked to has problems with their water but they have not called anyone to test it. I was told that there is known Methane migration up the road and had one neighbor tell me that he can now light his water on fire, but that he isn’t drinking it. Only “making coffee with it.” These people aren’t informed. There are children who are showering and drinking this water around my neighborhood. They don’t know the risks and don’t understand the severity of this situation. They don’t have the money to spend $900 on independent water testing. They believe that if it was a concern, the DEP would take care of it. It sickens me to think that nothing is being done.

I have since learned that NYC DEP has posted videos on their website, and signs next to public drinking fountains, educating people of the possible contamination from hydraulic fracturing,. and what symptoms to look for.

Our plans for breaking ground on an addition on our home and to have another child have since come to an abrupt halt. That day our world spun out of control. My family physician has never seen Barium poisoning nor do they know exactly what was in the drilling mud that contaminated our well water. They don’t know how to treat for these types of illnesses, and they can’t give me any indication of what long term affects this may cause on my health.

Our Family is collateral damage!
We are just 1 of the 33% failure rate of these gas companies. The failure to keep the residents of
Bradford County’s wells contaminate free.

I fear that someday in the distant future our State and County government will “wake up” and realize that the cancer clusters, heart conditions and children with learning disabilities are too frequent to ignore. By that time it is too late!

I get that there’s a huge opportunity here for our state and our county… I get that! However, the people need to be the priority. We need to be responded to promptly in case of a contamination, Neighbors need to be notified of nearby well contaminations and their water testing should be the gas companies’ responsibility, not the homeowner. Care needs to be taken that these wells are drilled in the safest way possible, with no regard for the expense on the “poor drilling company.” It doesn’t have to be this way.

Two years ago drilling began on my grandfather’s land on Armenia Mt by a company named Talisman. This company was considerate of my grandfather’s wishes, prompt when there was an issue with the well or his land, respectful of his peace, tested all the surrounding water wells before drilling commenced and from what I have been told “Go above and beyond” to ensure their well casings are the safest possible. When My uncle, who lives nearby water well was contaminated with Manganese, they promptly brought him a water buffalo and since that date have now encased his well, preventing any further contamination from the Manganese that was leaching in. My family has only had good experiences with this company. Something I wish I could say about Chief or Chesapeake.

I would like to read an excerpt from Article I of the Pennsylvania State Constitution Sec 27:

‘The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s natural resources are the common property of all the people including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.’

In closing. I would now like to ask my state Representative and my County Commissioners: Why have my Constitutional rights been taken from me?”

26 Comments
  1. Thelma permalink
    April 30, 2011 8:16 pm

    This is terrible and these gas companies are trying the same thing here in Australia and they wonder why the farmer gets upset with the “no thought to anyone but their selfs attitude” as all they want to do is get RICH at everyone elses expense

  2. JMB permalink
    May 1, 2011 2:37 am

    Let me first say that I am very sorry for what you are going through.

    Sadly, you are not the first to be deceived by these greedy corporations. I get so angry at their lies, indifference and attempts to create goodwill through what amounts to bribery. Like their sponsorship of The Daily Review’s NIE program. That makes me livid–“see what good citizens we are!”– as they ignore people like you. Your use of the term collateral damage is spot-on. That is just how they see anyone and anything damaged or destroyed by what they do.

    You said, “Care needs to be taken that these wells are drilled in the safest way possible, with no regard for the expense on the “poor drilling company.””

    I have to say that I don’t think this is at all possible with hydrofracking. I’m guessing that the wells your family members had on their land were created by ordinary drilling, not fracking, and that’s why they had fewer problems. But yes, the other companies definitely did behave better when/if they did mess up.

    Another thing they are lying about is that the Marcellus Shale is not going to solve all our energy problems. It’s much harder to obtain gas this way than by other means of drilling (the output is less), and the cost in terms of people and environment is just way too high.

    Personally, I would love to see fracking completely banned in this country, and for the government to stop subsidizing gas and oil companies and invest that money in wind, solar and other clean energy. Why not create jobs and lease land for that?

  3. May 1, 2011 5:57 pm

    June 7 – Protest & Lobby in Harrisburg, we’ve got to get them to listen to us. Please regardless of where you live in PA, make plans now, take a day off work, get a sitter for the kids, do whatever you have to so that you can be in Harrisburg on June 7.

    This is in the planning stages, small grassroots groups & some of the big environmental groups are joining on this rally – we need every voice.

    Questions: gtforouzan@gmail.com

  4. Mark Lampma permalink
    May 1, 2011 6:55 pm

    I always felt this gas thing was going to be bad news especially after seeing the movie Gasland. Erin and Crystal are very good friends of mine and went I learned of what was happening to them I was floored. You never think its going to affect you or the people you care about. I’m proud of Crystal and how she is going to fight this and let her story be told.

  5. Karen Khan permalink
    May 2, 2011 9:52 am

    Whoever is sponsoring a prtest against the gas drilling companies tell me. Also my husband is a physician who is coillecting information about health effects of drilling. Pleae fell free to send us information. He is going to present a set of standards for fracking health concerns in Harrisburg to the PAFP Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians soon. He is trying to get the medical body in PA to get together to help get a moritorium on fracking. My email is: karenlee135@msn.com my husbans email is: mhrnshkmd@msn.com Karen

    • Kristian Boose permalink
      May 2, 2011 2:18 pm

      Hello Karen. Do you know when the PAFP are meeting? I’ve passed along your request to the Protecting Our Waters Organizers and it’s my hope someone will contact you directly about this meeting and your request for information. In the meantime, there are protests and events with increasing frequency these days. Here is information about some things going on in Pittsburgh tomorrow 5/3: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=218656928160554 and Harrisburg on Thursday 5/4: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=218656928160554

      Keep an eye on our blog for word of bigger things to come.

      Peace,
      Kristian

    • Brenda Rezvan permalink
      May 2, 2011 2:42 pm

      Karen Khan,

      God bless your husband!

  6. May 2, 2011 10:03 am

    oh, please check out my blog. my story so closely echoes that of this poor family. i am in the neighboring county. i will repost this as my blog for today. our salamanders are now dying in our pond, once proven pristine by pre-drill tests. our water lights on fire, too, also proven pristine by all imaginable standards on pre-drill tests. farewell, PA, farewell.

  7. Mark Lampman permalink
    May 2, 2011 3:12 pm

    Unfortunatly the natural gas in dustry is exempt for the clean air and clean water act. Thank Dick Cheyney

  8. Christine Griffith permalink
    May 2, 2011 4:24 pm

    This is a terrible story an absolute devastation. I feel for your family and neighbors. I am so untrusting that we will be left with any decent land when they are done drilling. They tell us that we will be compensated for their damages yet, they are totally disregarding any of your concerns, unacceptable!!! I am worried that in the end without good water we won’t have anything!!! I also signed with Chesapeake and even though we are in town, I believe anything can happen anywhere. I hope and pray that this is resolved in the best regards to your family.

  9. Leigh Trasco permalink
    May 2, 2011 7:37 pm

    Kudos to you, Chrystal, for having the courage to speak out especially considering how ill you are feeling. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to find many others are probably suffering the same symptoms as you. The wheels of justice start turning at the sound of just one voice but turn stronger as voices join together.

  10. Laura Parmenter permalink
    May 2, 2011 11:15 pm

    It’s just terrible what has happend, and is happening to these people. But if all these gas companies go away so do the jobs. This is the only job my fiance has been able to find (he delivers water to well sites, and ponds). If he looses his job we are done. We are barely making it as it is. We were homeless in ’08 had to move to Pennsylvania to live with my parents to get back on our feet (that with a 5 month old baby). We are just now getting anywhere and now all this. In either case people are going to be hurting…

    • SNAG permalink
      May 4, 2011 11:16 pm

      Your use of the words “we are done” seems a bit shallow compared to what Chrystal is going through. Being “done for” financially is trivial compared to being “done for” physically. Just because you can’t live within your means doesn’t justify selling out and supporting a destructive industry.

  11. JEM permalink
    May 2, 2011 11:41 pm

    I lived in Auburn, PA for 2 1/2 years. Moved there right before the work with the well drilling had begun. I lived with the terrible roads. Nearly getting hit DAILY by trucks on a tight schedule. Even worse in the winter. The eye sore of all these well sites made me change my outlook a little on the money coming in. Anyway most people don’t get rich on the royalties. Their are a few but very few. And in the end the money you are receiving is going towards new problems like barium poisoning, water testing, getting your car fixed… After 2 1/2 years I decided to move to South Montrose. Somewhere in this transition I noticed my hair falling out. In addition to that I was getting psoriasis. My mother told me it was from grandfather’s genes. So I thought nothing of it. Montrose didn’t work out so I moved home to my families in Dallas, PA. At this point about 95 % of my head was covered in psoriasis and patches on my body. I was mortified to even go out with this. After staying at my families for approximately three weeks my skin and head slowly cleared. It’s been now 7 months and I have no sign of psoriasis. I believe it was the water I was drinking and showering with…

  12. Wendy permalink
    May 3, 2011 8:57 am

    I believe that for everything gained,there is something lost. Yeah these gas companies are here to drill and to make the ones with the most properties “Rich”. Think about it,the only ones that they are drilling on are the ones that can already afford that land. So sorry you and your family are going through this Crystal.Without the gas companies being here,alot of the “Rich”people would be having a very hard time right now.If the poor people don’t get paid,neither do the rich people.We would have been on even grounds eventually.But here are the gas companies.The people that work for Chesapeake and go out to the public for questions and answers,are not informed of everything.they are hired off the streets like you and I. The wells being contaminated aren’t just the wells close to the sites .It’s the wells within a few miles of the well.I believe Chesapeake should be checking ALL the wells in Bradford county. Also, since when did it cost so much to have your water tested? Four years ago,I had my water tested in Waverly at micro bac and they charged me$25.00..Has it went up that much?

    • Wendy 2 permalink
      May 4, 2011 12:04 am

      Bear in mind, that land up there has been extremely cheap…people who own land there are not “those who can afford the land”. It’s not like Chester County where land is very expensive. I look at it as, those who could not afford land other places, but could afford land there, or who were willing to tolerate the cold, windy winters so they could be somewhere nice in the summer, hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors. I for one would not want to live up there because of the winters. Please don’t demonize the farmers and their families who own land. It’s not an easy life up there.

    • May 4, 2011 2:32 pm

      According to Mountain Watershed Assn: at a minimum, water testing parameters should include:

      arsenic
      barium
      benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX)
      calcium
      chlorides
      hardness
      lead
      manganese
      magnesium
      methane
      methylene blue active substances (MBAS)
      oil and grease
      sodium
      strontium
      total dissolved solids (TDS)
      total suspended solids (TSS)

      Use a DEP certified lab, and do not do this testing yourself— ask that the lab send a technician to perform the testing, so if there is a lawsuit you can subpoena the lab to testify as to the source of the water sample. Periodically test your private water supply for quality and quantity. This is something that all homeowners on a private water supply should do, regardless of the occurrence of drilling.

  13. Debbie Johnson permalink
    May 3, 2011 3:43 pm

    Soo Sorry about hearing what you have gone through!! I also know a family that experienced a very bad situation and they had to leave there house and as usual NO LEGITIMATE EXPLANATION from DEP OR CHIEF seems like they wanted everything hush hush!!! We were here long before these gas companies now they took over all and came in with NO back grown checks at all and they are totally ruining our Country with the wells and for other things that are going on here!! So Sorry for everything you have had to go through!!

  14. Mir permalink
    May 4, 2011 11:27 am

    For Immediate Media Release:

    “Attorney General Gansler Notifies Chesapeake Energy of the State’s Intent to Sue for Endangering the Health of Citizens and the Environment”

    http://www.oag.state.md.us/Press/2011/050211.html

    • May 4, 2011 2:38 pm

      This lawsuit is in Maryland. I hope Pennsylvania is listening (which is doubtful). Our governor (Corbett) was elected to office by gas company money….lots of it. If all the states surrounding us ban drilling, (NY, DEL, MD) I fear that PA will become one big gas well…

  15. Barb Z permalink
    May 5, 2011 9:08 pm

    I hope you and your family get better.

  16. Barb Z permalink
    May 5, 2011 9:08 pm

    I hope you and your family get better.

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