Late Sunday morning 12-year-old Deborah Partin was turning out DVDs about hydraulic fracturing-more commonly called "fracking"- on her computer in an upstairs room of her family's 140-year-old farmhouse along Ohio 260 in Monroe County.
Homeschooled by mom and dad, Ruth and Mike Partin, Deborah is using her love of photography and videography to help get the word out about the process companies use to extract oil and gas from local Marcellus and Utica shale beds.
"I've always liked photography, and started taking photos and videos of fracking presentations, wells and water samples last fall," Deborah said. "I'm taking 'before' photos now, and will take some 'after' fracking photos later to show people about the whole process."
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Twelve-year-old Deborah Partin sits at the computer where she edits and makes hundreds of copies of DVDs her family uses to help educate people about the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract oil and gas from local Marcellus and Utica shale beds. In the background is Deborah’s mom, Ruth Partin.
Ruth Partin said her daughter films and edits the video presentations, then makes copies that can be distributed in local communities to help educate people about hydraulic fracturing.
Deborah and her family have also gone door-to-door, handing out the informational DVDs in surrounding small towns like Woodsfield, Lewisville, Beallsville, Jerusalem, Sardis, and Duffy.
In addition, Ruth said they've provided some booklets and other resources to area libraries, and hope to eventually produce a DVD documentary about the entire process that interested folks can check out from their local library.
To learn more
To learn more about the hydraulic fracturing DVDs being produced by the Partin family, call (740)934-2811, or e-mail Ruth Partin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Field trips to see hydraulic fracturing operations currently under way in Wetzel County, W.Va., are being conducted by the Wetzel County Action Group. Contact Rose Baker at (304)775-2340.
The Partins helped form Concerned Citizens of Monroe County, a group that would like to see a state moratorium on fracking until the process can be done safely without the risk of polluting local groundwaters. They're also networking with similar groups in surrounding counties in both Ohio and West Virginia.
"We want to alert landowners to at least get baseline and radiation testing of their water before the oil and gas companies start drilling on or near their properties," Ruth said. "We're urging people to educate themselves and do some research before leasing property to these companies."
She and husband, Mike say they're not against hydraulic fracturing and the economic boost it will bring to the area. But they believe the race to drill more wells in Ohio should be slowed so the state can put adequate regulations in place that will keep the process safe to protect residents and natural resources.
"This is something we need to do. And I think we may have greater concern because we moved out here 14 years ago for the beauty of this land," Mike said. "We want to see this economic development, too, but they need to find a way to make this process safer."
The Partins own 205 acres of farmland where they grow berries and other crops and raise a few horses.
Mike said many people who've lived in the Mid-Ohio Valley for years think the new hydraulic fracturing wells are the same as the much shallower oil wells their grandparents knew in the past.
"But this is not the same thing," he added. "They're mixing in chemicals and injecting between 5 and 7 million gallons of water to frack these wells."
In spite of her young age, Deborah already knows quite a bit about hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts.
"An average golf course uses about 4 million gallons of water a year-and that's how much is also used by just one fracking well," she said. "But it's different because the water used in the fracking well becomes contaminated during the process."
The process involves the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water deep underground where it causes the shale beds to fracture and releases natural gas and related elements.
The briny water is then recovered and stored on-site until tanker trucks haul it away.
Deborah noted during the process some of the polluted water can evaporate into the air where people and animals may breathe it in.
Ruth added that the chemical-laden water is sometimes being used to help treat roadways for ice and snow, or to help control road dust.
"And this water contains toxic chemicals that can get into our springs and the local water table," she said.
The Partins hope to garner enough support from property owners and other concerned parties to put the brakes on hydraulic fracturing for now.
"This whole process needs to be slowed down," Ruth said. "Landowners should maintain control over what is done on their properties, and legislators need to stop this until there's a better examination of the whole fracking process."