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Can you light your water on fire?

Bill Ely of Dimock, Pennsylvania can.

Bill and Sheila Ely are among 14 families near Carter Road in Dimock, PA, whose drinking water wells became contaminated with methane and other chemicals after gas drilling on their properties. Cabot Oil and Gas, the company held responsible by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, has had at least 21 spills in Dimock township in less than two years.
The Elys’ well has so much methane that the water appears carbonated and Bill regularly lights his water on fire to show visitors.

How does he do it? Bill takes a five gallon jug and fills it from his hose via a hole on the side. Extra water pours out overflow holes while the methane bubbles up to the top, up the tube, where he lights it like a giant lantern.

Here, the Elys' neighbor Craig Sautner tries to burn his water.

The Sautners have less methane in their water than the Elys, so Craig feels safe holding a lighter directly to his hose.

Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is new method of drilling for natural gas: millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are pumped down a well under high pressure. The pressure fractures the shale, opening fissures so that natural gas can flow more freely. In August 2010, fracking is being widely used in the Marcellus Shale formation under Pennsylvania while New York is considering a temporary moratorium on the practice until the environmental effects can be reviewed.

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