For a period of time during my college years I lived alone in an off-campus apartment. It was an interesting apartment composed of half the third floor and all of the attic in an old Victorian home. There were a few other apartments in the building and the tenants generally got along quite well. The landlady, on the other hand, was a quirky spinster who lived on the other side of town. She made it very clear to everyone in the building that she did not want to be bothered. Complaints were not only discouraged but ignored.
Looking back, it was a really nice apartment and I had decorated it quite nicely considering my meager student budget. I always figured that I wasn’t too proud to throw a nice blanked over a thrift store sofa or accept furniture donations from family and friends in order to be comfortable. My only extravagant purchase for my home was a pair of Zebra Finch that lived in a pretty white cage in the corner of the kitchen. I took really good care of them, always checking to see that the cage was clean and that they had fresh water. Each morning as I came down the stairs from the attic where I slept they would greet me with their happy chirping. Until the day that I came home from class to learn that the pilot light on my oven had somehow gone out and my birds had perished due to the gas in the kitchen.
I was lucky compared to the Kline family in Ohio who recently discovered that there was methane gas in their tap water. Debby Kline was petrified when the lighting of a candle near a running faucet set off a huge explosion.
“We’re putting our kids in the bathtub every night in this explodable water.” – Debby Kline
The Klines had previously noticed the water “fizzing” but were unaware that dangerously high levels of methane, a highly flammable gas, was in their well water. A natural gas company began drilling near their home six months ago and the Klines suspect this may be the cause of their flammable water problem.
Methane gas occurs naturally in the ground and can seep into wells when the ground is disturbed. The Klines’ tap water was tested before the nearby drilling began and found to contain only nine milligrams per liter … a safe level. Now, the levels have spiked to twenty-two milligrams per liter. Experts believe that wells with methane levels this high should be treated and monitored but, since a filter will cost around $8,000, the Klines are drinking bottled water for now. They are, however, still bathing in the tap water.
"We don't know the consequences of sitting in gas water. We just don't have a choice." – Debby Kline
Usually, methane in drinking water is not considered a health threat. But, when the gas escapes from the water and builds up in the air, especially in poorly ventilated or confined areas (like a tiny kitchen in a remodeled old house near a college campus), it displaces oxygen which can cause breathing and other health problems. Or, if you’re a bird, death.
The tragedy of finding my little feathered roommates motionless on the bottom of their cage that day pales in comparison to the ongoing fear in which the Kline household is living.
Did you know that tap water can catch fire?!
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