Structural Damage in Portage County Home Linked to Adjacent Fracking Operation

6 December 2012

WINDHAM -- A homeowner says cracking walls and crumbling mortar are being caused by a nearby well.

Beckie Dean blames the "enormous" damage to her 11-year-old house on the drilling operation just across the street, about 1,000 feet away.

She says the cracks began to appear in September, soon after the well went online.

"We've had two contractors, two structural engineers come in, and they both said it is definitely vibration cracks and they ruled out every other source of vibration except for the drilling rig," Dean told WKYC.

Dean has noted every crack and writes the time and date it appeared next to it, on her walls and ceiling. She pointed to her fireplace which has loose mortar and had two decorative rocks fall off of it.

"After that, water began to leak through the chimney into the house," she recalled. "You could feel the mortar as wet as the day they built it."

The soon-to-be former flight attendant said she had an impossible time getting the required hours of rest before work, because of the constant drone and thud of the drilling equipment.

"It was like a helicopter," is how Dean described it.  "It's like the helicopter is on the ground, or there is a diesel semi truck outside your bedroom window 24/7."

The eastern Portage County homeowner made an audio recording one day at 3 a.m. of the noise inside her bedroom, where the windows were closed.

She has also had several visits from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates drilling.

They took video inside her house and made other observations during their investigation, including recording the vibrations caused by the  well.

"The sound is always there, you can't get it out of your head," she said, and answered a question about how she gets enough sleep by saying, "You don't. You don't. You don't."

"Some of us have given up our jobs because of safety issues, some of us are just rag-tired, and thank God our bosses are sympathetic to us."

Dean is careful to note that she is not against drilling per se, as she and her late husband were involved in the oil and gas drilling business for decades. She thinks fracking is moving way too fast in Ohio.

"The rules and regulations we have here in Ohio in place have not kept up with the technology they are using now to drill those wells," Dean declares.

She hopes her experience will be a warning to anyone thinking of leasing their land, and to those in the neighborhood where a fracking well is planned.

"They see the dollar signs, they see the large number and they see the dollar sign. They don't' see what's coming to their community," she warns. "They don't see that the big trucks are coming in. They don't see that their children's lives are over."

Beckie Dean says her homeowner's insurance will not cover repairing the damage to her walls and ceilings. The drilling company has not admitted responsibility and she admits it may be hard to prove.

"We are stuck. We are stuck. We're absolutely stuck," she said. "There's 14 wells going in across the road. It'll be ten years before they're done."

Dean has been in touch with various state agencies and directly with the governor's office. She wants to head-off trouble for others before it affects them like it has affected her.

"I want to see better regulations. I want to see stricter laws," she declares. "I want to see these wells drilled farther away from homes."