• Business Business

Distraught families share evidence against oil and gas giant after fracking began close to home: 'We cannot stay here'

"We've been trying to decide for months if we should sell or leave the house."

"We've been trying to decide for months if we should sell or leave the house."

Photo Credit: iStock

After natural gas giant EQT expanded its fracking operations — a controversial oil well drilling technique — into the small community of Knob Fork, West Virginia, families living near the wells started experiencing health problems so severe they had to abandon their homes. 

Even though the families had overwhelming evidence to prove EQT's operations were unsafe, their numerous complaints to state environmental regulators mostly went unresolved, as PublicSource reported

What's happening?

As the news outlet explained, EQT established its presence in Knob Fork in early 2021. By August, families in the hamlet were writing to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for help.

PublicSource explained that Abby Tennant, one of the residents, kept a detailed journal chronicling the family's deteriorating health that seemed to coincide with EQT's operations, reporting various symptoms they often experienced, such as bright red rashes, breathing issues, migraines, muscle and nerve pain, chest pains, random twitching, and dizziness. 

"We've been trying to decide for months if we should sell or leave the house," Abby wrote in the journal in May 2022, per PublicSource. "A decision will have to be made soon about where to go. We cannot stay here and continue to be sick."

Later in 2022, the Tennants and three neighboring families left their homes for good after years of getting the runaround from EQT representatives and state environmental regulators. 

Why is this concerning?

The development of chronic health issues that force families to abandon their homes is an obvious concern. In addition, the company seemed to be violating safety regulations that weren't being properly enforced.

Many of the families' health problems may have been caused by breathing in "uncombusted VOCs," which Melissa Ostroff, a certified optical gas imaging thermographer with the national environmental organization Earthworks, captured using FLIR imaging, per PublicSource

Michael McCawley, an inhalation toxicologist and associate professor at West Virginia University, told PublicSource that the VOCs released by EQT can cause an "inflammatory reaction" in the body that may lead to chronic disease and poor immune health with long-term exposure. 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, fracking can damage the environment by contaminating groundwater and surface water, creating air pollution, threatening wildlife, and increasing the risk of earthquakes.

That's not to even mention the hazards posed by natural gas. Research shows that U.S. oil and gas operations are leaking 60% more methane — a toxic gas with 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it's produced —- than previously thought. 

What's being done about it?

While the families moved away from Knob Fork, their health problems lingered, and some are trying to "secure some sort of medical monitoring," as PublicSource reported. In addition, the outlet reported that the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating EQT's operations in the community. 

In a broader sense, significant efforts are underway to electrify the fracking industry to reduce pollution. However, as the energy transition progresses, natural gas will likely make up a much smaller portion of the energy mix. 

Thankfully, solar, wind, and other renewable energies are coming online at breakneck speed, helping to rapidly curb pollution.

You can also make a difference by voting for pro-climate candidates who are willing to hold corporations accountable and penalize polluters.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider