The "Good Neighbor" chapter of Triple Divide investigates the nuisance case of Jim Harkins, who had a Marcellus well pad built 800ft from his back door on a neighbor's property [not that uncommon].
Unfortunately, after the flaring on the well pad ceased, the operators began to 'vent' once every day or so. The venting of the well lasts for roughly a half hour and consists of a sound a lot like an extremely loud factory whistle. Jim continued to battle with the company about the disturbances, but has been forced to find an alternative location to live. He's now purchased a home in Florida, and lives there part of the year, but is planning to move from Pennsylvania because of what's happened to their standard of living after fracking began. He invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home and property that a realtor told him they couldn't sell because of how close the well is to his yard.
As one of only four triple continental divides on the North American continent, everything is downstream for Triple Divide. From this peak, rain from a single storm can end up on three separate sides of the continent: the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Triple Divide headwaters feeds the largest area of Exceptional Value (EV), specially regulated water bodies in Pennsylvania - it also drains part of the state’s largest stand of publicly-owned forest - the last great wilderness.
Today, these Wilds of Pennsylvania are being divided in many ways by shale gas industrialization.
This film is the story of Public Herald’s first investigations into the inevitable, negative impacts from shale gas industrial development and how they are handled by the state, specifically the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
PH's 18 month investigation discovered recurring impacts: contaminated water, air, and land; intimidation and harassment; loss of property, investments, and standard of living; weak and under enforced state regulations; community disruption; destruction of the public trust; illness; fragmentation of Pennsylvania's last stands of core forest; and lack of protection over basic human rights.
Triple Divide tells a cautionary tale about the consequences of shale gas industrial development alongside a deficit of accountability. Though the stages of development for shale gas will one day end, taking many boom and bust jobs with it, contaminated groundwater aquifers, environmental damage, and injured stories will remain in the absence of strictly enforced state regulations.
In the Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.
A beach cleanup on Midway Atoll made us feel just like Sisyphus.
There are millions of tons of plastics present in our oceans, and these are constantly fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces which are scattered throughout the water column and present, in different densities, throughout all the worlds oceans.
Contrary to what many people believe, there are no visible islands of trash anywhere --even if some areas, the gyres, accumulate higher densities of plastic pollution. In actuality, what is happening is much more complex and scary: our oceans are becoming a planetary soup laced with plastic.
To make thing worse, these tiny pieces of plastic are extremely powerful chemical accumulators for organic persistent pollutants present in ambient sea water such as DDE's and PCB's. The whole food chain, from filtering invertebrates to marine mammals are eating plastic and /or other animals who have plastic in them. This means that we are. Like the albatrosses on Midway, we carry the garbage patch inside of us.
Cleaning up this mess is not feasible, technically or economically. Even if all the boats in the world were put to the task somehow, the cleanup would not only remove the plastics but also the plankton, which is the base of the food chain, and is responsible for capturing half of the CO2 of our atmosphere and generating half of the oxygen we need to breathe.
But even if this problem was solved too somehow, the amount of plastic that we could capture, at an immense cost, would be a drop in the bucket as compared to the amount that flows into the ocean every day.
No matter how hard we push, in terms of technology or money, the boulder will be rolling back down the hill, throughout eternity, unless we stop putting more plastics into our environment.
The good news is that we can do this. We can do this now. We need to start a social movement that spreads virally and creates a critical mass of concerned citizens who pledge to move away from our disposable habits, and who raise their voice to reject and reverse a throwaway culture that might be profitable, but whose consequences are intolerable.
The arms of the oil industry reach far. 800 miles from the heart of the drilling, a small town in Wisconsin is experiencing its own side of the boom. Sand mining, a process which provides very fine silica for fracking, is becoming an increasingly important Wisconsin export. Sand is a necessary ingredient for oil extraction in the Bakken formation, where the crude lay beneath layers of shale, meaning the demand for sand is beginning to mirror the demand for oil. The residents there have their own fascinating, and often grim story to tell.