Marcellus Shale / by Justin Merriman

A jar of water that Darrell Smitsky said came out of the tap in November 2009 sits on a fence post at his Hickory home. State environmental officials said it’s safe to drink. Smitsky says water tests have turned up xylene one time and toluene and acrylonitrile another. He fears their well water has been compromised. The nearest well is less than 1,000 feet from their home. Darrell said he began to fear the water when his goats started getting sick in the summer of 2008. He lost five goats that summer, ages 2 to 9. They all died the exact same way, with their rear legs locked rigid like they were paralyzed and with their bodies shaking all over.

John Dryer, 73, of Independence, stands on a hill side overlooking a plastic-lined frac pond that holds some 18 million gallons of water and sits on six acres (500 feet by 900 feet, and 15 feet deep) on his 226-acre farm that has been in his family since his father bought it in 1959.

Darrell Smitsky, 37, stands next to two jars of water that he said came out of the tap in November 2009 and July 2010. He fears their well water has been compromised by nearby drilling for gas.

Stephanie Hallowich, 39, stands next to a water pond with clean water that can be used to frac well and sits 150 yards from their home in Hickory’s Mt. Pleasant Township. The Hallowich's live with the industrial consequences of Marcellus shale gas wells: a gas processing plant sits within 300 yards and a compressor station sits within 600 yards. Green storage tanks on the gas wells sit within sight of their home, and a gravel access road with frequent truck traffic cuts across their property. Fearing their water has been contaminated by the drilling, the family trucks in water for drinking and bathing. They spend $156 a month for a water tank and pump, and pay $125 every time they fill the 1,500-gallon water tank every 2-3 weeks.