Early one morning in July 2014, Lori Paup awoke in her new home in the Sulphur Springs Valley of Arizona and began unpacking boxes of clothes, hanging photographs and prepping the day’s home-schooling lessons for her two teenage children.
Paup, who until a few days earlier had never been to Arizona, was exhilarated to have finally arrived at the house on East Hopi Drive — a blue two-bedroom trailer on two acres of land — but also exhausted. The move from Fallentimber, Pa., where the family lived for 15 years, required a cross-country trip in the semi-truck that Lori’s husband, Craig, drove for work, and now a long list of chores awaited.
Outside, the day was already north of 80 degrees. Lori was just beginning to fill a glass of water when she noticed the stream from the faucet was cloudy and brown. “The water looked like the desert surrounding the house,” she said. “The same color.” Running her hand under the stream, she found what appeared to be small grains of sand.
A small woman with a tight smile and a bright orange streak in her hair, Lori was immediately unnerved by the sight. Like all homes in the valley, where there are no reservoirs or rivers, the Paups’ house drew its water from a private well drilled into the underlying aquifer. According to the real estate listing, the well reached a depth of more than 300 feet.
Lori, who is 51 and a mother of five, reminded herself of this when, a few moments later, the sand appeared to clear and the water again looked normal. Busy with other projects, she scribbled a note to call the previous owners, figuring there was dirt clogged in the kitchen pipes. Soon enough, she forgot about it.
A few days later, Lori and her daughter Amy were […]