• Keeley Teslik

Personal Narrative: Rose Friend

Since the early 1900s, Rose Friend’s ancestral home has sat proudly in Marianna, Pennsylvania. Even as the surrounding landscape has changed in the more than 100 years since the house was built, the home has remained a steadfast structure and a hub for family gatherings. Looking at it up close, you would never know the damage done to the surrounding property—a fact Rose and her daughter Karen LeBlanc know only too well—or the health threat that lies just across the road from Rose’s home.

Rose’s house is situated just east of the towns of Amity and Prosperity, which were featured in Eliza Griswold’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name. Surrounding the home is a region rich with history—from Indigenous American tales of the Monongahela Culture to the nation’s first federally funded road, commissioned by Thomas Jefferson. The region also experienced the impacts of a coal mining boom and bust, and more recently it saw an influx of shale gas facilities.

Rose, a retired teacher, was born in her Marianna home, the youngest of twelve children to her mother and father, Celeste and Abraham Phillips. Abraham was a carpenter who built additions onto the family home with his bare hands in the early 1900s.

Rose (bottom right) with her siblings and parents, Celeste and Abraham Phillips

Surrounding the farmhouse with its high baseboards, intricate wood flooring, and thoughtful details are acres of fields, which Rose’s family plowed for years by horse. Rose speaks of following the plows and picking up uncovered arrowheads, which the family has kept, further verifying the area’s storied past.

She remembers the fields directly across from the family home, where Osage orange trees—ones that had been established before the family arrived—and hedges protected the home from harsh sunlight and blustering winds that swept across the fields.

Though Rose moved when she married, the home stayed in the family, and just a few years ago she returned.

“When my husband passed away, I lived in his house but didn’t own it, so about four or five years ago, I asked myself what I was doing living in that house when I have my own house. So, I moved back here. I made the big circle. I was born here and I’m back here now, and I’ll stay here.” Rose Friend

The family’s 100th Christmas celebration in front of their ancestral home

The home has held hundreds of get-togethers over the years, at one point regularly hosting 80-90 family members for holiday parties. Particularly during the last two years, these celebrations have become a bit quieter; more recently, Rose was joined by about 20 people. This year, she and her remaining siblings—two sisters—shared a sentimental visit in the family home.

“This is home to them. To me, and to them. This isn’t a home. It’s home. It’s everyone’s home.” Rose Friend

As their family celebrations and get-togethers have changed, so has the property surrounding the home. Numerous well pads, compressor stations, and other shale gas facilities now freckle Marianna’s landscape and the surrounding area.

The Hunter well pad in Marianna. The red roof of Rose’s house is visible behind the access road to the left of the pad.

Not only do these facilities disrupt the rolling fields that lie between Marianna’s lush woods, but they disrupt the lives of nearby residents with property and road damage and with noise, light, and air pollution that has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health conditions.

Studies show that those living, working, and going to school near both active and inactive shale gas facilities are more likely to experience asthma and other respiratory issues, heightened fetal health risks, heart-related hospitalizations, and stress-induced health impacts. Beyond these physical impacts, studies also show greater impacts on mental health when particulate levels in the air are high.

While toxic pollutants from shale gas wells have been detected up to six miles (31,680 feet) from the wells, current regulations allow facilities to be as close as 300-500 feet from schools, childcare centers, homes, and other occupied dwellings. For Rose, the nearest shale gas facility is right across the street.

“They come in, they take the best part of your land, and they build on it. And they do not care. That’s the impression that I get. They do not care.” Rose Friend

Early development of the Hunter well pad, as seen from its adjacent manifold pad

The Hunter well pad was developed in 2018 by local shale gas producer EQT. It is one of many shale gas facilities EQT operates within Marianna’s two square miles. The development of the Hunter pad and its adjacent manifold pad severely disturbed Rose’s property. Nearly all of the century-old Osage orange trees are gone (as are the hedges), and the land has been cleared and its topography morphed. An access road—the second of two created for the pad—has been built directly across from Rose’s home, which regularly carries heavy truck traffic. Despite these impacts to Rose’s property, Rose and EQT have no shared comprehensive contract outlining the extent of this work.

“Mom still has not been paid for [all] they’ve done over there. They’ve done small contracts with her, like with the recirculating tanks. They paid to have those on her property for a little while. You get these tiny little subcontracts all over the place, but it comes down to they’ve torn everything up and inconvenienced her. We’re talking the dust, the trucks… They come in 10 at a time, load up with [wastewater], then the next round comes in. All day long.” Karen LeBlanc