EQT well site complaints resurface in Finleyville

December 9, 2014
In this photo, Mickey Gniadek stands in front of his Finleyville home, which is directly across from a natural gas drilling site. Gniadek spoke at Monday night’s Union Township supervisors meeting. - Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

FINLEYVILLE – What Gary Baumgardner wants most for Christmas is a frack-free holiday. Baumgardner, who lives next to a well pad operated by EQT on Cardox Road in Union Township, wants the company to cease operations for a day so he can host a family dinner.

It was not the first time Baumgardner and other residents complained about noise and odors emanating from EQT’s well site, located on property owned by Trax Farm. During a Union Township Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, Solicitor Dennis Makel asked EQT to give the township their test results on noise and air quality at the site.

Baumgardner said it’s a tradition to host a Christmas dinner at his home, but his 9-month-old granddaughter is not permitted to come near active drilling sites, per doctor’s orders.

Stephanie Paluda, an EQT spokeswoman who attended the meeting, said the company will most likely continue fracking operations on Christmas. She said hydraulic fracturing started Friday, and the site is an around-the-clock operation.

Baumgardner complained of plumes of white smoke, a sulfuric odor and booming noises. He questioned why those activities were louder at night, which kept him and his wife up past 2 a.m. during the weekend.

“In the day, everything’s quiet. There’s a drumming going on, but at night, all hell breaks loose,” he said. “What are we trying to cover up?”

EQT spokeswoman Linda Robertson said Tuesday afternoon they received no formal complaints, and the company “cannot confirm any difference between what is heard during the day or the night.”

“Throughout the various development and production stages at Trax, we’ve hired independent consultants to cover as much of a broad spectrum as possible – air, land and sound concerns – and gathered and submitted the raw data to independent labs for analysis,” Robertson said in an email. “To date, those studies found EQT’s operations to be in compliance with the noise requirements set forth in the township’s ordinance.”

Baumgardner said there is a constant “rotten egg” smell on Cardox Road and questioned if hydrogen sulfide is being released into the air.

Paluda said the company has monitors to test for H2S, or hydrogen sulfide, and “if there was actually H2S, all the alarms would have gone off.”

Makel asked Baumgardner if any of his neighbors complained. He said they haven’t, but argued some accepted a $50,000 offer from EQT to resolve claims involving the gas company’s operations, including damages, annoyance, inconvenience, nuisance and pain and suffering. Baumgardner said he had attorneys review the offer and decided not to sign for fear of having his freedom of speech suppressed.

“Unfortunately, EQT, with throwing the $50,000 out and everybody signing away their right to complain, they can’t complain about their health, they can’t complain about the noise, so what are they doing? They’re not complaining,” he said. “And they know I didn’t sign.”

But Baumgardner said his neighbors’ lights were on late Friday night when fracking started up again.

Mickey Gniadek, who also lives on Cardox Road, attested to Baumgardner’s account and said his house was vibrating since EQT started fracking the wells again.

“He’s not giving you baloney here,” he said of Baumgardner.

Board Chairman Larry Spahr said the township is in the process of revisiting its noise ordinance, a step he said is “a result of the activity at the well sites.”

He said, for the most part, the township has a good working relationship with EQT. The board in September approved EQT’s application for a freshwater impoundment, despite some pushback from residents.

“Generally speaking, they’ve been very cooperative,” Spahr said of EQT. “Where we had issues, they try to address them immediately. Some issues appear to be recurring, but then again EQT seemed to be taking steps to (remedy) those conditions.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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