In what has become a monthly ritual for the Hallowich family, Chris Hallowich, in T-shirt and shorts, helps with a water delivery to his home in July 2010.
The family initially continued to use its well water, even after drilling began nearby, assuming it was safe. The Hallowiches say they were never notified to have their water tested. And, as Stephanie recalls, she was not originally worried about the gas operations. “Just water and sand,” she says, is what she understood would be used in the shale gas process. But as the gas operations encroached, Stephanie contacted groups opposed to natural gas drilling elsewhere in the state, who urged the family to test for a variety of chemicals. One testing company found acrylonitrile, a chemical used to make a wide variety of plastics, and trace levels of a number of other chemicals. But state regulators said the only substance that showed up consistently at a level of concern was the mineral manganese, a potential neurotoxin which is a problem in southwestern Pennsylvania and could be naturally occurring.
Without tests that definitively show the make-up of the drinking water before and after gas drilling, cases like this one become entangled in seemingly endless dispute.