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SIU grad Rendleman talks about experience with fracking

October 04, 2013 12:00 am  •  BY SCOTT FITZGERALD, The Southern

CARBONDALE — SIU alumna Julia Rendleman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette spoke on campus Thursday about her reporting on a water blight in The Woodlands, a small Pennsylvania town about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh and surrounded by natural gas wells.

Rendleman said her approach to the story included writing about fracking undertaken by Rex Energy. She said she tried to go beyond the technical and scientific information and capture the lives of the people being affected.

She said well-water from residential faucets turned orange, black and purple after Rex Energy began fracking with horizontal drillings that contained injections of high-pressured water, sand and chemicals to fracture rock layers.

Rendleman said residents got sick drinking and bathing in their supposedly potable water.

The Pennsylvania State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) got involved telling residents, “Don’t worry about the water color, it’s cosmetic,” she said, noting the state eventually concluded Woodland resident water well quality did not differ much from water samples taken by Rex before it began drilling.

Rex was cited for improperly installing casing, allowing methane gas to escape and discharging industrial waste into a stream, she said.

Nine families have filed lawsuits against Rex, she added.

She said Woodland residents had “grown weary of the blame game.”

Rendleman also discussed, and showed slides of, residents helping each other as they find quality water from other sources, such as churches providing free water banks.

“You are in a survival mode,” Rendleman said of The Woodlands’ residents.

During a question-answer period, Rendleman said she was well informed of fracking coming to Southern Illinois.

“If you rely on well water, get it tested regularly before it (fracking) happens in your area,” Rendleman said.

Rendleman spoke at noon in Morris Library’s Guyon Auditorium as a part of a College of Mass Communications and Media Arts program. She is a 2010 master’s graduate of the college.




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