Ron Gulla had the second horizontal gas well in Pennsylvania on his farm in Washington County, south of Pittsburgh.

A former Hickory, Pa., farmer and drilling tool salesman, he knew a little about oil and gas drilling.

But his experience when he leased his farm for drilling in 2002 has turned him against hydraulic fracturing.

On Monday, he pleaded with Wilmington Township supervisors not to relax rules for fracking in the township, presenting information he has collected about the dangers posed by the industry.

"You've got a beautiful area here," he said. "But I see what's coming. Hickory used to be beautiful too."

He described watching his farm deteriorate once fracking began.

He said his three-acre pond turned black. One day, he noticed bubbling in gravel surrounding his well bore and had that water tested. The test revealed the presence of benzene , toluene, xylene, ethyl-benzene, o-xylene and other chemicals, "all volatile organic compounds, all deadly carcinogens," he said. He presented Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection figures showing that gas well bores had a 6 percent failure in 2010, a 7.1 percent failure in 2011, and an 8.9 percent failure in 2012.

"What do you do when your water's ruined?" he asked. "Now you have to go and find a lawyer with money they know you don't have."

Gulla said he went to the bank to get a loan and the bank told him it would only give him a fraction of what his farm was initially worth because drilling had reduced his property value.

He no longer lives on the farm and today works for the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, a nonprofit organization in Wayne County, "doing health surveys for people who are sick from Marcellus shale."

He questions why the oil and gas drilling industry is the only one exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. He claimed that the DEP has minimized the real effects of oil and gas drilling. "Thousands of wells have been contaminated," he said and added "lawsuits are out of the yazoo."

"It's never been about energy independence," he said. He asked why propane prices are so high and added that the price of fuel should be much less than it is.

"This is all about export. It is going to the highest bidder," he said.

Gulla said he opposes all fracking now and does not believe it can be done safely because the gas migrates into many pre-existing fissures.

But he said people in affected communities should "stick together and talk." He said the gas and oil industry uses a military tactic of "divide and conquer."

Although he speaks against fracking, Gulla does not consider himself an activist.

"I consider myself a steward of the land," he said.

(Email: m_grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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