Nov 17, 2011 Amanda Wada Uncategorized
Protestors carrying anti-fracking signs at Skaneateles First Presbyterian Church seemed to be preaching to the choir Wednesday at the “Hindsight is 20/20” hydrofracking presentation sponsored by the American Association of University Women.
Two farmers from Bradford County, Pa., Carolyn Knapp and Carol French, came to Skaneateles to discuss their experience with the Pennsylvania gas industry. While they claimed alliance to neither pro nor anti fracking, Carolyn and Carol clearly warned of what they called a “community divide.”
“Carolyn and I have chosen not to label ourselves whether we are pro or anti gas,” Carol said. “We are simply living in a time of miscommunication, succumbing to misinformation while our safety and well-being are in question. Because of this, we are seeing our communities become divided. Some have drawn the line and will not budge on either side. Everything has become black and white, no one has taken the time to explore the grey issues. The result has become a divide in our community. And our communities need each other’s support the most.”
Carolyn and Carol have first-hand experience with hydrofracking. They are both Bradford County dairy farmers. Carol runs a conventional dairy operation, Carolyn an organic farm. Both agreed to lease property rights to the gas industry for hydrofracking purposes.
It was standing room only for late-comers as the pair began their presentation, discussing the changes their rural community has faced “since the gas started.”
Since drilling began, the area has been hit hard economically. Residents have seen the cost of living skyrocket as a fleet of workers flooded the sleepy, rural community.
“Rentals went from $350 to $1200 a month,” Carol said. “That’s just for a one room apartment.” Food prices have also increased, as have taxes.
Law enforcement and emergency services are also feeling the burden of the quickly expanded community.
“Many of the local police forces are beginning to speak up about crime,” Carolyn Knapp told the crowd. “It’s mostly DUI’s and bar fights.” Carolyn explained that the area’s jails are filled, and the state has begun shipping its inmates to New York.
“Welcome to New York,” exclaimed one member from the audience.
The gas industry has brought hundreds of tractor trailers onto aging county roads, leaving many of them inaccessible.
“The gas industry is really hammering the road, and the roads just fell out from underneath them,” Carolyn said. “For two weeks I went with 4-foot ditches in front of my road. Since then they’ve re-done the road twice.”
“Carolyn also has two to three hundred trucks passing by her right now,” Carol added. “For two weeks children could not get to the school because of these roads. For two weeks, people that were on dialysis could not get to the hospital to receive treatment because of these kind of roads. Also, there was no federal mail delivered for two weeks.”
Besides the community’s shared struggles, individuals are also facing the consequences of hydrofrackingthe with their health. Carol stood underneath a slide-photo of her now “swirly white” drinking water, and held back tears as she told us of her daughter’s recent health problems.
“Three weeks ago my daughter had a fever for three days. She’s 24 years old. She never complains. She had diarrhea, she had cramps, stabbing pains in her stomach. After a week she lost 10 pounds and she asked me to please take her to the hospital. Mind you, we don’t have health insurance – like a lot of farmers in our area, but I did take her like a mom would. They did blood work and urine samples and they did an MRI. The blood samples didn’t show any high elevated white blood cells, but the urine did. In the MRI, they found fluid in her abdomen. Her right ovary is enlarged, and her spleen and her liver are slightly enlarged.”
Carol’s daughter has since decided to move to Tennessee to escape the risk of further health problems.
After their 90 minute presentation, Carol and Carolyn opened the floor to questions. Members of the audience raised concerns about how fracking could affect central New York if the gas industry were to begin drilling here.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful area here. I didn’t realize how beautiful it was,” Carol said. “But your way of life will change. The tourist will be gone. I think you guys will end up hiding in your homes.”
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