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  • Environmental Health Project

Personal Narrative: Jack & Darlene

Jack and Darlene have a rich family history in the place that they call home. They play an active role in the changing story of this rural community, by monitoring the impacts of natural gas development that surrounds their home.

The family dog, Gizmo, poses on the front porch beside two unopened Speck air quality monitors. This 32-day period of air monitoring will be the third Jack and Darlene have participated in.

Their property is nestled at the base of hills. From this view, you can see the auto mechanic shop Jack runs. On this beautiful summer day, it’s easy to forget that the home sits less than a mile from an active compressor station and about .3 miles from two fracked well pads, in a community with additional wells and fracking impoundment ponds.

Jack and Darlene generously shared rich details from their family history, including funny childhood stories and proud accounts of US military service, demonstrated by memorabilia and photographs around their home.

Jack and Darlene’s property is beautiful, and unique. Tucked in the woods behind their home and mechanic shop is a natural spring: an invaluable natural resource. However, they fear that this water is contaminated, due to earlier mining in the hills above the water source, and the more recent gas drilling activity in the area.

Each feature of their property that Jack and Darlene point out has a fascinating history. Throughout its years, this small outbuilding, within view of the porch and mechanic shop, has served as a chicken coop, a barber shop, and a play area for their daughter. It now stores her old toys, which Darlene can’t bear to part with.

On the hill behind the outbuilding sit several dead trees of assorted varieties. Jack and Darlene observed that shortly after Rice Energy did a “blow off” at the compressor station further uphill, these trees began to die.

The Blue Moon compressor station hums away, within earshot of Jack and Darlene’s home.

An impoundment pond sits about a mile from their home. They are not sure whether this pond holds fresh water for nearby fracking operations or wastewater from them.

Jack knows the history of this area, and is acutely attuned to any changes. This development of a new compressor station, however, is hard to miss.

The couple positions the air monitors indoors and out. From their prior experience with these devices they know, for example, to situate the indoor monitor away from the kitchen, where cooking releases smoke and gases that can give high readings.

The couple feels relieved that a planned buyout of local driller Rice Energy by the company EQT should halt new drilling for a rumored two year period. A new gas facility was planned for the hillside directly above their home in this photo. Undoubtedly, as this story evolves, Jack and Darlene will monitor the changes in their community and their environment.