Highly flammable methane gas that can seep into well water is creating fireballs in home drinking water. NBC's Jeff Rossen investigates, visiting one family in Ohio whose tap water methane levels are more than twice the acceptable level.
Could you imagine turning on the faucet in your kitchen or bathroom, and the water ignites, in some cases, creating a fireball right in your house? Believe it or not, it can happen, thanks to a chemical in some drinking water. One family outside Cleveland is living this nightmare right now.
Jason and Debby Kline are fearing for their young children.
"Oh I was so scared. It just was a huge explosion — the entire sink up to the ceiling," said Debby. It started just weeks ago, when they noticed their water was fizzing. Then, when Debby lit a candle near the sink, the water lit up.
"We're putting our kids in the bathtub every night in this explodable water," Debby said.
Turns out, there's highly-flammable methane gas in their well water.
Methane is invisible, and naturally occurring in the ground. It can seep into wells. That seepage is even worse if the ground is disturbed by anything from earthquakes to drilling.
And near the Klines' house, it just so happens a natural gas company was drilling.
Before they started, the company paid to test the family's water. Methane levels were 9, just within safe limits.
But months into the drilling, tests show, the methane levels had skyrocketed — reaching 22 — more than twice the acceptable level.
"We're wondering if this is all just coincidental," said Jason.
Said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "This family in Ohio is not alone. There's been methane found in drinking water across the country."
In fact, there's even a film about the issue, the anti-drilling documentary "Gasland."
"Critics of drilling say laws need to be tougher, to protect homeowners," said Mall. "Oil and gas companies have been granted special exemptions from of our most important environmental laws. And we need really tough enforcement, which we don't have now."
For the Kline family in Ohio, the cause of their flaming water is still unclear. The gas company told NBC News that they support the state investigation, and that "there are many natural variables that can cause the levels of methane to change."
But in the meantime, the Klines say buying a methane filtering system would cost $8,000, money they don't have. Forced to drink bottled water instead, they're still bathing using the tap.
"We don't know the consequences of sitting in gas water," said Debby. "We just don't have a choice."
Officials in Ohio say they're taking this case very seriously, and investigate all claims. And this issue is getting attention in Washington, too. Congress has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to study the potential effects of drilling on drinking water.
Methane getting into the water supply only affects people with wells. If you use city water, this doesn't affect you.
For the millions of American who use well water, there are companies that can test your water. Each state has different guidelines for safe levels of methane. If your water starts fizzing, that could be a red flag.
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Click here to read statements regarding the Kline family's story.