Note: The best way to evaluate Spectra Energy is to evaluate its track record, not its promises. Any evaluation of its track record should include listening to stakeholders who live near Spectra Energy facilities.
Testimony of Angel and Wayne Smith
Property Owners in Clearville, Bedford County, PA
Regarding Spectra Energy’s Steckman Ridge
Underground Gas Storage and Compressor Facility
EPA Science Advisory Board
Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel
February 1, 2016 Public Teleconference
My name is Angel Smith and my husband, Wayne, and I are providing this testimony based on our personal experience with Spectra Energy’s Steckman Ridge underground gas storage and compressor station, located near our property in Clearville, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. We are about two hours from Washington, DC.
For the record, we are neighbors to a 12-billion cubic feet underground natural gas storage reservoir with a 5,000 horsepower compressor station, 13 injection/withdrawal wells and related pipelines. This facility stores and pumps shale gas through the Spectra Energy pipeline system.
We are not Ph.Ds or MD’s; but we are experts on what has happened to us and our animals when drilling and gas storage happened near our property.
- We watched our artesian water well run over the well casing for months after the compressor went into operation;
- We watched our animals die – chickens, a horse, several healthy cows, calves (that seemed to be okay for a few days, then dead), and still born calves.
We called the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) several times; and they would show up after the fact.
DEP reps would pull WATER samples and dump them out in front of us. They would take samples and give us a report with iron levels at 10.3 mg/l and manganese 3.228 mg/l. The secondary standards being iron at 0.3 mg/l and manganese at 0.05 mg/l – which means our levels were well over acceptable limits. And a nice letter from DEP that would state, “Drilling has NOT affected your water supply.”
When they were called again, the DEP rep would arrive only to tell us he did not bring enough bottles to pull samples for testing. Once we were told, you’re so close to the Maryland state line, we don’t care.
Then the next letter would arrive claiming our water quality “has improved since drilling” and operations at the compressor station began. DEP was using its now infamous 942 codes, which ignore levels of high iron, high manganese, high arsenic, toluene, and methane in all of our water supplies!
Since 2009 when Spectra Energy put its Steckman Ridge underground storage and compressor station in service, there have been more than 60 shutdowns and related incidents at its facility. And we are still counting.
Spectra Energy’s track record at Steckman Ridge includes deception. For example in March 2013, there was an uncontrolled leak of 431.5 thousand cubic feet of natural gas vented to the atmosphere over a two-day period. The incident was so disturbing to neighbors that fire trucks rolled to the facility.
Despite the reality that evening, Spectra Energy’s directors of stakeholder outreach first claimed “Nothing was released. There was no smoke. No incident.” By the next day, the company retreated and claimed only a “small volume” of methane was released. To this day, the company refuses to say publicly how much was released. But we have the document in which the company admits this was anything but a small volume. So Spectra says one thing publicly while privately documenting the uncontrolled release of a huge volume of methane.
When Spectra Energy’s Steckman Ridge operation drilled injection/withdrawal well SR 6, not far from our property line, we had a spring pop up inside our barn that we had to fix. There was so much water in our barn, it was running down the driveway onto the paved road.
On November 25th, 2009, we were still drinking our spring water because it did not test positive for arsenic, as our well had. That morning I made coffee, and noticed the water was brown. Up to that point, it never dawned on us that the spring water was now contaminated. We were sick for months!
Again DEP told us our water quality had improved!
After that we installed a $10,000 water treatment system in our house and for our animals. We have watched our pond go up and down in synch with Steckman Ridge’s injection and withdrawal of gas, and our pond turn red.
From 2007 thru 2015, we have watched our pets and livestock die! As noted, our chickens all died; big healthy cattle would fall over and kick their feet and die. We had one cow tested and it tested positive for liver disease. With four dead dogs, we had one tested and it tested positive for kidney and stage 4 liver disease; its kidneys shut down, and it had an enlarged liver.
The horse DIED the same way as the cattle, kicking its feet, unable to stand – DEAD! In addition, neighbors have reported losing cattle, dogs, and goats.
At this point, my husband experienced memory loss, lesions on his lungs; and he has an over load of iron. FOR MYSELF, I’VE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH enlarged liver, liver disease, and lesions on the liver. This medical diagnosis is based on liver biopsies for both of us.
The creek that runs through our property tested positive for MBAS, a surfactant. To this day we still have large amounts of foam going down this creek.
Our neighbors have their homes for sale, but there is no interest from potential buyers because of the water contamination and air pollution driven by releases at the Spectra Energy compressor station.
We did not ask to be lab rats, we just wanted to raise our cattle for supplying meat to American families, enjoy our pets, and enjoy life — not ever did it cross our minds to worry about what we are drinking or breathing.
I ask you: Do not let this continue! We cannot allow anybody to say drilling doesn’t affect our water and air. My husband and I are living proof that it does. Please do the right thing. Nobody should ever have to live through what we do.
Wayne and Angel Smith