Residents living on the frontlines of fracking recount their stories of illness, water contamination and damage to their livelihoods due to dirty drilling operations in a new booklet, Shalefield Stories.
“Behind the alarming numbers that outline fracking’s environmental impacts, there are real people whose lives have been gravely impacted by these polluting practices,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “These are their stories, and we would be wise to heed their words of warning on fracking.”
“This is what happens when you invite fracking into your community,” said Marilyn Hunt, who suffered air and water pollution and illness in the wake of nearby fracking operations. “Today, we are not alone in saying this dirty drilling has to stop.”
The people within the pages of Shalefield Stories are only a few of the many individuals and families directly impacted by fracking operations. In some cases, residents affected by fracking are no longer able to talk about their experiences because of gag orders contained in their legal settlements with the drilling operator. One tally called List of the Harmed shows more than 4,800 individuals adversely affected by oil and gas incidents.
As fracking threatens to expand drilling in California, a coalition of environmental justice and community health groups sent a letter yesterday challenging the legality of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board’s plan to keep letting oil companies dump toxic drilling-mud waste throughout the valley with minimal safeguards.
Citing state environmental laws, the letter urges the water board not to move forward next month with a proposal to exempt drilling mud waste discharge from regulations. Drilling muds—used to facilitate drilling of oil and gas wells—contain scores of chemicals that can pose severe risks to human health.
“The water board will endanger the health of every person in the Central Valley if it gives these toxic drilling muds a free pass,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As fracking and acidization open new areas to oil drilling, the board has a duty to the people to protect our water and public health—not make it easier for oil companies to dump their dangerous waste without safeguards.”
A recently published study by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater near natural gas fracking sites in Texas’ Barnett Shale.
While the findings are far from conclusive, the study provides further evidence tying fracking to arsenic contamination. An internal Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times warned that wells near Dimock, Pa., showed elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater. The EPA also found arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Pavillion, Wyo., in 2009 — a study the agency later abandoned.
ProPublica talked with Brian Fontenot, the paper’s lead author, about how his team carried out the study and why it matters.
How is fracking affecting farming and the food supply. Elizabeth Royte’s in-depth article, Fracking Our Food Supply is excerpted here.
“Schilke’s troubles began in the summer of 2010, when a crew working at this site continued to force drilling fluid down a well that had sprung a leak. Soon, Schilke’s cattle were limping, with swollen legs and infections. Cows quit producing milk for their calves; they lost from sixty to eighty pounds in a week; and their tails mysteriously dropped off.”
… “ ‘There are a variety of organic compounds, metals and radioactive material that are of human health concern when livestock meat or milk is ingested,’ says Motoko Mukai, a veterinary toxicologist at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. These ‘compounds accumulate in the fat and are excreted into milk. Some compounds are persistent and do not get metabolized easily.’
Among the case studies uncovered were seventeen cows that died of suspected respiratory failure after exposure to spilled frack fluid in Louisiana, and around seventy cows in Pennsylvania that died after 140 animals were reportedly exposed to frack wastewater – of the surviving cows, less than a dozen produced calves, and only three survived. Another Pennsylvania herd recorded a 50% stillbirth rate after cows had grazed in fields contaminated by fracking chemicals spilling from a waste pit; the following year saw an abnormally skewed sex ratio, with ten female and two male calf births, as opposed to the typical 50:50 ratio.
Oswald told The Ecologist that if fracking goes ahead in the UK, ‘farmers living in intensively drilled areas should be very concerned about potential exposures of their crops and herds to shale gas contaminants in the water, air and soil.’
Much of the land sitting on top of the giant underground Marcellus shale field in New York State that is targeted for gas drilling using hydrofracking is active farmland. Fracking this land has the potential to disrupt farming productivity, endanger livestock health and affect produce and livestock quality. It presents a huge danger to our food supply.
Below are some of the many reasons why fracking and farming are incompatible.
reprinted from Catskill Mountainkeeper