Ohioan tells of ‘Gasland’ experience


A three-year saga after a gas well was drilled in his Bainbridge Township neighborhood destroyed his water well and transformed the neighborhood, Irvin Mesmer says.

Mesmer spoke Thursday to about 75 people who gathered in Liberty High School auditorium for his talk and the screening of “Gasland,” an award- winning documentary by Josh Fox about drilling and a method known as hydraulic fracturing.

Fox began investigating after his family was offered $100,000 to drill on their property. Among drilling sites he visited was Dimock, Pa., where natural gas drilling was under way. There, families could light their tap water on fire, their wells were contaminated and they had health issues.

Fox also explored drilling in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Texas, where he also found residents with chronic health problems who had experienced contamination of the air and water wells after drilling.

When the gas well drilling in Mesmer’s neighborhood started in October 2007, he and his wife, JoAnn, were at their vacation home in North Carolina. They returned later that year to find a filthy road and changed neighborhood where they had lived for some 50 years.

The biggest jolt came Dec.15, 2007, when the gas well exploded. No one was hurt, but one house was knocked off its foundation. Then gas migrated into water wells, he said.

“We always had a gorgeous well with soft water,” he said. That was no longer the case. The water could be used for bathing, he said, but water for cooking and drinking had to come from another source. The gas company provided bottled water.

A parade of inspectors and representatives of the drilling company, gas company and Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates all drilling, frequented his home and the 41 others in the neighborhood, but too few people involved knew enough about the process and effects.

As a result, city water lines were installed free to 21 residences and a class-action lawsuit over the explosion was brought by 42 property owners. They received financial settlements in January.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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