Water is the lifeblood for Montana's residents and agricultural economy.

Increased fracking for oil and gas has the potential to contaminate our groundwater. Wells blow out, spraying chemicals onto the land, wastewater impoundment ponds leak, fracking chemical trucks overturn, well casings eventually leak. These are the realities of living with oil and gas development.

Over 30 citizens traveled to Helena in January to talk to legislators and present a common sense bill, the Baseline Water Testing bill. It would provide landowners (many of whom do not own the mineral rights) the option to request a baseline water test by the developer before drilling begins and again after a well is plugged.

Testing can be expensive and often out of budget for our farmers, ranchers or families. The oil industry is profiting and should incorporate the baseline water testing as a routine cost of doing business.

Baseline testing can alert everyone to contamination of the water supply. Right now, if the water becomes contaminated, it is the landowner who must prove the chemicals were not there before.

Montana has no water testing requirement. Landowners are at the mercy of oil and gas companies. We ask the companies to step up and be good neighbors. You can help protect our water and sustain our farms and ranches by calling 406-444-4800. Urge your senators to support baseline water testing. As we like to say, "Get tested, get protected!"

Deborah Hanson

Miles City