|By Cathy Dyson, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
While residents in other counties document violations on Facebook or feed them to the federal government, Pitcock and her crew let researchers and journalists, conservationists and environmentalists see for themselves the impact and infrastructure that natural gas drilling brings.
"We put them at ground zero . . .and give them unfettered access to private land," she said.
Visitors who want to study compressor stations stay in homes near the units. They hear the high-powered turbines that sound like jet engines as they run nonstop to filter and treat gas so it can go through pipelines.
College students get to stand on the edge of a well pad as it's fracked. That's when the process of hydraulic fracturing injects water, chemicals and sand into the ground to fracture the rock and release trapped gas.
During a recent visit by 30 students, "Some were in tears, some were in awe, most had no idea these wells were that big," Pitcock said. "People need to see what it really looks like."
They're in the midst of a modern-day gold rush that has brought gas companies from across the country to their doorstep.
The counties are part of the
Another possible site for gas drilling--but on a much smaller scale than the Marcellus--is the Taylorsville basin, which is south and east of
Because what's happening in
One woman is studying the impact on songbirds.
The tests normally cost about
"It's one thing to read about this stuff in books, but we get to see it on the ground and talk to the people affected," said
Boos said she was really surprised at how hard it was for West Virginians to get responses from officials when they reported polluted waters or dirty well sites.
She believes that is the most valuable lesson her group can take home, as
"How can we do it in the best possible way, to at least ensure that the regulations we have in place are followed?" she asked.