Pennsylvania: the ‘ground zero’ of the US shale gas drilling boom
by Suzanne Goldenberg
Last June, Tony Zaffuto arrived at his fieldstone cabin in the forested hills of Pennsylvania’s SB Elliott state park to find a notice pinned on the front door: “Danger. Do not occupy dwelling”.
A blowout at a gas well in another popular camping spot, in the woods of the Punxsutawney hunt club, also in Clearfield County, had shot a 23-metre (75ft) combustible gusher of gas and toxic waste water into the air. It took the gas company, EOG Resources, 16 hours to control the well and the authorities had to carry out an evacuation.
It was not Zaffuto’s first encounter with the dangers of natural gas drilling. In 2009 the spring that was the cabin’s only source of water was contaminated by toxic waste from a pond serving the gas wells. Five other nearby water wells were also contaminated.