Semester

Summer

Date of Graduation

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

MA

College

Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Martina Angela Caretta

Committee Member

Karen Culcasi

Committee Member

Cynthia Gorman

Abstract

In the past decade, northwest West Virginia has experienced increasing natural gas extraction from the Marcellus shale. Because water usage for natural gas extraction is high and increasing, there has been a proliferation of concerns about gas extraction’s impacts on surface and groundwaters, especially how hydraulic fracturing and drilling impacts residents’ access to safe household well water. This issue is particularly salient in rural West Virginia, where many residents rely on groundwater wells for household uses. This thesis, based on 30 in-depth interviews with surface and mineral owners, explores resident perspectives and lived experience of natural gas extraction’s impacts on household groundwater wells. Residents with groundwater drinking wells rely on baseline water testing when oil and gas development occurs near their homes to be able to detect changes in water quality. Water testing is typically conducted by contractors hired by oil and gas companies, but it is mired by delayed test results and incorrect testing procedures, producing residents’ negative feelings and lack of trust toward oil and gas companies. Using the framework of waterscape, this thesis attends to the social and political contexts produced around water in West Virginia. This analysis also contributes to the framework of waterscapes by drawing on concepts from feminist geography of embodiment and epistemic authority. Together this conceptual framework is used to analyze West Virginia residents’ lived experiences of well water contamination and the production of waterscapes around natural gas extraction. This thesis contributes to debates about how gas extraction is changing waterscapes while centering the complex social relations apparent in natural gas extraction in West Virginia.

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