By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —-  The controversial issue of fracking — removing natural gas from shale deposits by injecting liquid chemicals into the ground — is front and center this week in Philadelphia, during a three-day industry conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

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Across the street from the convention center, demonstrators collect bottled water and donations to help families whose drinking water, they say, has been contaminated by fracking along the Marcellus Shale in central and western Pennsylvania.

“Many well owners and families in the places where the drilling is occurring have experienced contamination of their water wells because of gas drilling,” says Tracy Carluccio of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, also with the group Shale Gas Outrage.

Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, says studies show fracking does not harm groundwater.  He says the protesters are wrong.

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“We respect their right to assist communities that they feel might be in need.  I think the water drive may have more to do with optics for television cameras than it actually does with facts,” Forde said.

(Credit: Mike DeNardo)

(Credit: Mike DeNardo)

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The conference wraps up Thursday with a keynote speech from former US House speaker Newt Gingrich.

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