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A small neighborhood in Butler County, Pennsylvania has a big water problem.

Meet Janet and Fred McIntyre, pictured here with their backyard water buffalo.

The McIntyres had lived with the noise, smells, and traffic from drilling in their area for several years. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Butler now ranks sixth among Pennsylvania counties in the number of unconventional gas wells. 

But the situation changed for the worse when contaminated tap water ruined a family dinner–and eventually much more–in January 2011. For the McIntyres and their neighbors, the quest for answers and help has been long, hard, and frustrating, and is far from over.

As cases of household water contamination spread, the community responded with a grassroots effort to protect their families from health risks. Community groups, volunteers, private donations, and coordination by a local church support the “Water for Woodlands” program, which makes weekly deliveries of drinking water to more than 30 families.

If it's hard to imagine relying on a drinking water distribution program for your family and neighborhood, think of all your other water needs. If water sometimes smells and foam at the tap, and if you get a rash after showering, could you trust that your water source is safe even for household uses?

In addition to the drinking water deliveries, the community has worked hard to raise funds for water “buffalo” tanks, which have been donated to the McIntyres and other families so they can get deliveries of clean water for bathing and other uses.

DEP and the main oil and gas company in the area claim there's no connection between drilling activities and the Woodlands' water woes. But because documents, data, and emerging science say otherwise, Earthworks and our partners have asked DEP to conduct a new investigation. For more on what's happened in the area and possible reasons why, check out the case study on Janet and Fred McIntyre from our recent report Blackout in the Gaspatch.