In the Journey OnEarth film series, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Roshini Thinakaran reports about the people most directly impacted by pollution, oil spills, and toxic chemicals, and communities coping with climate change across the U.S.
A bright orange road stands out like a scar in the forested mountains of West Virginia. (Image by Zakary Wenning)
The citizens of Wetzel County (along with most of the central northeastern U.S.) live hundreds of feet above a rock type known as Marcellus Shale. This large layer represents an ancient sedimentary deposit that over time has been compressed into slate-like rock and now contains a large amount of natural gas trapped within. To release this gas, companies drill straight down then arc to run horizontally through the shale layer. From there, tiny explosions crack the shale around the drilled tube. Water, sand, and chemicals are then pumped from the surface down into this tube, creating and filling tiny cracks in the shale from which the gas then escapes and comes racing to the surface.
While technologically impressive, fracking can be disruptive to the functioning of the farms, both through the activity of drilling and of simply setting up the “pad” where the equipment will remain. Accordingly, many citizens of Wetzel County are upset at the rampant growth of the industry and are now actively trying to slow or stop natural gas exploration in the area.
Hear some of their voices, and see the land and the facilities for yourself. Watch the full film on SnagFilms.com and experience life in the Marcellus Shale boom first-hand.