McIntyre said a water company is willing to bring a feed line to the edge of the community and put a pump house in. But the Woodlands residents would still need to form an association to manage and pay for water lines and hookups.
Residents met in January with lawyers to discuss filing lawsuits. But one expert said any claim would be complicated by the variations in water quality and the lack of a contamination finding from state or federal agencies.
‘‘It’s a tremendously difficult case,’’ said Emily A. Collins, a professor and supervising attorney with the University of Pittsburgh Environmental Law Clinic. Collins said that even if there is a lawsuit, plaintiffs might find it difficult to get their expert opinion into evidence, since the science isn’t clear.
The debate should be over anyway, say both state regulators and the drilling company Rex Energy, because multiple independent reviews found no contamination from drilling at all.
‘‘In each case, the scientific analysis concluded that neither Rex Energy’s operations nor natural gas development impacted water quality,’’ said Rex spokesman Derek Smith, who noted that the company provided access to records, shared data, and gave ‘‘its complete cooperation and support’’ to the reviews. Rex is based in State College.
Yet Stoltz expects that ultimately his team’s research will provide a definitive answer for the Woodlands residents. The tests haven’t found any evidence of drilling chemicals in the water wells, but Stoltz said that even though no gas wells went directly under the Woodlands, the surrounding countryside is full of them. He said that while his team’s conclusions aren’t final, he believes that the recent gas drilling around the Woodlands has affected groundwater flows, thus indirectly causing problems for some people.
But even if drilling didn’t cause the problems, McIntyre said she doesn’t understand why the community must struggle to find the answer.
‘‘It just seems like I can’t get some kind of justice,’’ she said. ‘‘I want water so bad I can taste it.’’