For anyone who lives near a natural gas shale, the story of the Hallowich family of Washington County, Pennsylvania, is a familiar one. It begins with a knock on the door from a representative from a multi-billion dollar natural gas company offering an enticing sum of money in exchange for the mineral rights to the land.
Then comes the drilling, followed by reports of headaches, or nosebleeds, or worse. Then the legal fees. Then silence.
What’s not familiar in the case is what may have happened to Chris and Stephanie Hallowich’s children.
When the Hallowiches began building on ten acres of land in southwestern Pennsylvania, they had no idea their dream home would sit atop the site of one of the biggest fracking operations in the country: the Marcellus Shale. A sedimentary rock that runs thousands of feet below ground from upstate New York through Pennsylvania, parts of Ohio, and into West Virginia, its millions of years’ worth of decomposition creating so-called natural gas, the Marcellus Shale is currently on track to produce about 550 million barrels of gas this year alone.
In the Hallowiches' case, it was the previous owner of their property who had cut several deals to cash in on this underground resource. The gas processing plant, compressor station, underground pipelines, three-acre plastic-lined holding pond, and four natural gas wells that sprouted up around the Hallowiches’ two-story house as a result of these deals soon became more health hazard than eyesore, the family says.