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Seeking a Physician in Bradford County

Recently we received an email from a resident of Bradford County, PA. This person is seeking a nearby physician who has experience and/or knowledge of the effects of extractive industries on health and is accepting new patients.

Please forward contact information for potential physicians to me: slm75@pitt.edu.

Greene County Man Charged with Wastewater Dumping

Archived

This article has been archived and is provided for reference purposes only.

 

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office released a statement yesterday, saying that criminal charges have been filed against Robert Allen Shipman from Green County and his company, Allen’s Waste Water Services, Inc., for allegedly dumping millions of gallons of waste, including gas drilling waste, in six southwestern Pennsylvania counties between 2003 and 2009. There are 98 charges against him personally, and an addtional 77 counts against his company.

The grand jury and Acting Pennsylvania Attorney General William H. Ryan, Jr. allege that Mr. Shipman’s company operated in the following manner:

  • Drivers were instructed to mix several waste types, obscuring the actual contents, allowing for easier disposal
  • Destroying original manifests with forged ones, in order to overcharge customers
  • Leaving valves open on trucks at gas wells after dark or in rainy periods, in order to illegally dump wastewater onto the ground
  • Dumping into a drain at a Allan’s Waste Water Services facility, which drains directly into a stream

According to the Post Gazette, Mr. Shipman has posted a $50,000 bond, and Allan’s Waste Water Services is open for business.

If convicted, Mr. Shipman could face jail time and fines up to $1.5 million and another $1.2 million for his company. According to the Post-Gazette article, Mr. Shipman’s operation earned him up to $7 million per year.

A preliminary hearing has been set for March 25th in Greene County.

New Arkansas Panel Report: Model Oil and Gas Laws

By Arkansas Public Policy Panel

Yesterday, we released the second in a series of reports on natural gas drilling in Arkansas: Model Oil and Gas Laws, Regulations and Ordinances. This report looks at how other states with thriving natural gas industries protect their residents. We found that many states and communities enjoy far better safeguards than Arkansas. The findings refute claims by the natural gas industry that improved safeguards for Arkansans will drive them out of business and hurt economic development.

We believe Arkansas communities deserve the best protections available. There is a way to balance natural gas development with landowner and environmental protection. This report highlights some of the best practices other states use to find that balance.  Executive Summary  |  Full Report

Air emissions from drilling rig

The Environmental Impacts of Shale Gas Extraction

Archived

This article has been archived and is provided for reference purposes only.

By John Stolz, PhD – Duquesne University, Department of Biological Sciences

The Marcellus Shale represents one of the largest reservoirs of unconventional natural gas in the world.It holds the potential, like other gas and oil reserves, to provide a source of energy and jobs for Maryland. It’s extraction, however, is non-trivial and if done without proper safeguards can result in the degradation of water and air quality, and loss of land use. Over the past year I have had to opportunity to observe ongoing natural gas well activities in Western Pennsylvania, attended public hearings,spoken with disaffected individuals, gas company representatives, and people from other states with gas drilling activities. I would like to share with you some of my observations.Shale gas is called “unconventional” because the gas is trapped in the rock and needs to be extracted.The process, called hydraulic fracturing, involves a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals that are injected into the group at very high pressures (~10,000 psi). Each “frac” may require up to 5 million gallons of water. In Pennsylvania, this water is withdrawn from lakes, streams and rivers.

The large volumes of water are transported to a developing “play” by water trucks and deposited in large impoundments. These impoundments can be several acres in size and hold millions of gallons of water. A typical water truck may hold 4,500 gallons, so it takes several hundreds to thousands of truck trips to fill an impoundment.

The depth of the Marcellus Shale is between 5,000 and 6,000 feet below the surface in Western PA,thus a larger drilling rig is needed. A unique feature of these wells is that they are “horizontal” and may extend outwards several thousand feet in several directions. This is needed as the formation is relatively thin (~150’) in most places. A well pad may have 6 to 12 well heads. Each well produces~1,000 tons of drilling waste (ground up rock and drilling mud) that may contain a variety of salts, heavy metals, and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). This drilling waste may be buried on site or, more usually, transported to a land fill.

The well pad itself is 4-6 acres, in order to provide space for the trucks and containers, and impoundments for drilling mud, waste, and fracking. Once the horizontal has been drilled and cased, it is “fracked”. This process involves many vehicles, containers of sand and chemicals, the mixing trucks with fracking chemicals, and the diesel compressors (~200 vehicles). Hence the need for more space than a conventional well. During completion, the well is usually flared.

A completed well pad will typically have several well heads (the “Christmas tree), separators, small compressors, and condensate tanks (to handle the produced water). As long as a well pad is active (the well can be restimulated or used to drill a deeper formation), the footprint is still 4-6 acres. Depending on the number of wells, there may be as few as two condensate tanks or many more. They are sources of volatile organics as they are designed with “blow off” relief valves. Invisible to the naked eye these volatiles can be seen with specially designed infrared cameras.

The amount of produced water may also vary. For Marcellus, the initial flow back has been only about10 to 20% of the amount of fluids that were injected. Over time this “produced water” increases in total dissolved solid (TDS) content. The “brine” can be ten times saltier than seawater, contain high concentrations of bromide, chloride, strontium, and barium, as well as arsenic and uranium. In Pennsylvania, while the condensate tanks have hazard placards indicating the toxicity and flammability of the flow back water, the truck only is labeled “residual waste” and “brine”. Publicly owned wastewater treatment plants (POTWs) are allowed to take up to 1% of their total daily output. In Pennsylvania, there are currently at least 63 POTW’s permitted to take produced water. POTWs are not designed to“treat” produced water but merely dilute the salts.

This has resulted in increases in total dissolved solids(TDS), bromide in particular, in local rivers. The increase in TDS and bromide has caused problems with public drinking water facilities as the disinfectant process (chlorination) creates trihalomethanes (TMH, bromoform and chloroform). As a result many public drinking water facilities in the area have had to convert from chlorination to chloramination to reduce the formation of THMs. However, chloraminated water can cause the leaching of lead from older pipes and fittings. And there will be spills. Over the past 2.5 years, the PA-DEP has cited the industry with over 1,600 violations. Many of these were for improperly constructed impoundments, chemical spills, and surface contamination.

There are other aspects to the industry as well. Methane is a colorless, odorless gas, that needs to be odorized with mercaptan. The product from the Marcellus in Western PA is not dry gas but a combination of other organics as well. Thus the gas needs to be “dried” in refineries. Propane and butane are “cryo” separated in these facilities. These complexes are a source of volatile organic compounds and are frequently flaring off residual organics. They are also flanked by compressor stations that pressurize the gas for the pipeline.

The industry can move very quickly as has been recently demonstrated in Hickory-Houston, PA area,where since 2005 there are now over 80 well pads, impoundments, compressor stations, and other gasfacilities within a five mile radius.

The extraction of unconventional natural gas is heavy industry involving large tracts of land, heavyequipment and vehicles, and an extensive array of pipelines, compressor stations, and processing facilities. The level of surface disturbance is extensive, as has been demonstrated elsewhere (e.g.,Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana). Existing industries such as agriculture, tourism, outdoor ventures (e.g., fishing, hunting, and camping), and wineries, will be lost or significantly impacted. In Pennsylvania there have already been loss and contamination of well water, and loss of livestock and quarantined herds after exposure to contaminated water.<

Summary of Environmental Impacts

Water

  • The amount needed for fracking (5 million gallons/frac)
  • Loss of well (aquifer) water through disruption or contamination
  • Gas migration causing methane contaminated water
  • The fate of the produced water (“treated” at POTWs)
  • Degradation of water quality in local streams and rivers
  • Degradation of drinking water quality (need to purchase bottled water)

Land usage

  • Large amount of acreage needed for well pads and impoundments
  • As long as a well can be “restimulated”, the well pad will remain active
  • Leased areas (former private and public lands) become restricted access
  • Public lands and parks no longer “public” as they are off limits due to safety

Exposure to toxic chemicals (spills, aquifer contamination)

  • Fracking fluids
  • Produced water contaminated with organics, salts, heavy metals, and NORMs
  • Failed or improper casings lead to aquifer contamination

Traffic and road degradation

  • Significant increase in trucks and vehicles cause road and bridge deterioration
  • Trucks may exceed weight and height limits

Noise

  • Heavy equipment, increased traffic,
  • Low frequency sounds during fracking
  • Compressors and compressor stations

Air pollution

  • Increased vehicle traffic
  • Well flaring
  • Release of VOC’s from well installations (condensate tanks are vented by design)
  • Compressor stations
  • Well blow outs

Property devaluation

  • Mortgages and home equity loans jeopardized by presence of wells
  • Mine subsidence insurance compromised or negated
  • Land owner ultimately responsible for taxes and environmental damage

EMS and emergency procedures

  • Evacuation plans must be in place for populated areas (a single well blow out can affect more than 1 mile radius)
  • EMS, police and fire must be trained to handle emergencies (well and impoundment fires, evacuations)

Increases taxes to cover infrastructure damage, additional public services and security.

John F. Stolz, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Director, Center for Environmental Research and Education
Duquesne University
Pittsburgh, PA 15282

Hitting Close to Home – Gas Pad Fire in Avella, PA

By Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Communications Specialist, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC), University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH); Doctoral Student, GSPH

Shale Gas Violations near Avella, PA (small)
Natural gas industry violations since 2007.
Avella, PA can be found by clicking on the image
and then zooming in on the patch of violations
in the center of the map.
Map created using FracTracker’s DataTool.

On February 23, 2011 a section of a natural gas drilling site in Avella, PA caught fire. Luckily only three workers were injured, but the issue still hits close to home – literally. Avella is my hometown. This quiet, farming area is located roughly 35 miles southwest of Pittsburgh in Washington County, PA. (See the map to the right.) It has a large school district geographically, with a tiny population. Known primarily for its rolling hills, farmland, and a historic landsite called Meadowcroft, Avella very rarely makes the headlines in Pittsburgh. That very fact is what peaked my concern when a TV news program mentioned that an incident had occurred on a Chesapeake Energy well site there.

The PA Department of Environmental Protection is currently investigating the fire. Initial reports indicate that volatile vapors that escaped while workers were flow-testing (part of which involves separating the flowback fluid from the natural gas), ignited and then caught nearby tanks on fire.  Volatile vapors can include a number of constituents, such as propane and benzene, which is a known human carcinogen. While there is little evidence to suggest that water contamination occurred as a result of the accident (like the 2009 spill near Cross Creek lake), air quality was most definitely affected. The smell of chemicals burning during the fire was even reported by some nearby residents. Thankfully, based on witness and on-site reports, the cooperation between the various emergency responders meant that the fire only burned for about three hours.

On a side note, I find it interesting that Chesapeake immediately refuted reports that hydraulic fracturing was the cause of the fire. Hydraulic fracturing, a process that breaks apart the shale layer under the ground to release the gas, had apparently been completed on the site. However, the volatile vapors originated from condensate, a result of hydraulic fracturing. Semantics.

Video Update: 3/1/11

Citizen Experiences with Shale Gas Drilling

 

Sharing the experiences of citizens in the Marcellus Shale field
New! Op-ed in the Erie-Times News

Letter sent to CHEC’s director, Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH:
Dear Dr Volz,

 

I am a resident of Susquehanna CO PA, ground zero for natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing. Oil and Gas were exempt during the Bush/Cheney administration from all environmental federal regulations for Clean Air, Water, the Chemical Disclosure Act, Superfund Act etc….via the HALLIBURTON Loophole. Halliburton developed fracking technology, and are one of the main drillers and also produce the chemicals used in the process. The industry does not have to reveal what toxic chemicals they are injecting into our ground through our aquifers… it is proprietary. I urge you to watch Josh Fox’s Sundance Winning documentary “GASLAND” if you have not already seen it.
We have no rights to clean drinking water; the industry is counting on getting eminent domain to extract the natural resources from under our ground and criss cross our land with pipelines they will not inspect: we are Class 1 areas and our lives per Federal and State regs are not worthy of a safety or even a routine pipeline inspection plan as we are in rural sparsely populated areas. These natural gas transmission and gathering lines will not serve PA residents, but will export natural gas out of our county and country and sold on the open market for the highest profit margin. We have been invaded by multinational natural gas corporations who are contaminating our drinking water, polluting our air, making us sick, and the state is on their side. No one….not even the lawyers ultimately… have stood up for Dimock residents’ right to a source of clean drinking water. The bottom line is profit, not our health, our water, our lives. Cabot Oil and Gas contaminated the Dimock aquifer and got away with it. Tomorrow is a panel discussion in La Port, PA featuring Anthony Ingraffea, PhD in Rock Fracture Technology, Cornell Univ., and Terry Engelder, PhD from Penn State, who holds a PhD from Texas A&M in Geosciences. Dr Engelder stated publicly that Dimock was a “necessary sactifice” for progress, Penn State has done a lot of research funded by the Oil and Gas industry. Dr Ingraffea, has spoken the truth about the dangers of shale gas extraction using “fracking” techniques… injecting millions of gallons of fresh water with thousands of pounds of chemicals like benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene under high pressure 8000 feet underground to fracture the marcellus shale and capture escaping gases. We need your expertise and voice on the insight you may offer about the longterm cumulative health and environmental impacts to help us get a handle on the war being waged on our communities.

What Oil and Gas is doing in PA, WY, CO, WV, they have done for decades in third world countries: driven the indigenous people off natural resources they wanted access to . Well, my county has been invaded by corporations who are treating us like indigenous natives: we are the new native americans to be cleared from the land; drill rig workers have told us we are in the way. Seismic testing companies have started working on land where no gas leases were signed and when confronted they said we are oil and gas and we will do what we want. We are a third world country to Cabot, Halliburton, Chesapeake etc. PA Homeland Security with the FBI’s consent hired an Israeli surveillance firm, ITRR (Institute for Terrorism Research and Response) to spy on anti-natural gas drillers, “those fomenting dissent”, and shared the information with the natural gas industry. The Marcellus Industry Coalition hired former PA Governor, former Head of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, to do PR and lobby for them. They have portrayed the development of natural gas as a national security issue, and anyone who dissents is a terror threat. That means citizens trying to save their drinking water from contamination, citizens trying to educate their communities about the public health risks of drilling are terrorists. I attached a billboard we put up in our county that ended up analyzed in the Intelligence Bulletins. I am so sorry to ramble, but we need hope.

As a Pennsylvanian, if I litter on a state highway, e.g. throw a biodegradable banana peel on the road, I can be fined hundreds of dollars, yet the Halliburtons of the world…oil and gas….are polluting my air and water legally, and my state does not recognize my right to clean drinking water. We only have our own voices… we do not have millions of dollars to spend on lobbying so I am reaching out to you. Those of us living over marcellus shale, are the new native americans to be driven from their homes. We are the new third world population. The Susquehanna Watershed, the poor rural cousin to the wealthier more politically powerful Delaware Watershed, was allowed to be the guinea pig for marcellus shale extraction. But as the DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission) has unveiled its owns set of rules and regulation for drilling, it seems they are readying to lift the moratorium in the Delaware Watershed before the EPA concludes its new comprehensive environmental impact study of marcellus shale extraction. The last one done in 2004 under Bush/Cheney…concluded shale gas extraction posed no threat at all to the environment. If you be willing to be on a panel discussion about marcellus shale, please let me know. Perhaps Iris Bloom of Protecting Our Water, based in Philly, could interview you on her new radio show FRACTURED DEMOCRACY…which is to be aired on a new truly grassroots public radio station WFTE in Scranton PA. I will send you her pilot program. Thanks, and I hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,
Rebecca Roter
Dual resident Bucks/Susquehanna CO’s PA


Videos by another local citizen:

 


“Dogs became ill after drinking water near a previous gas well site”

“Chemicals used on well site”

 


“During Steckman Ridge Compressor Station accidental emergency release in 2009″
Thanks to Sandra McDaniel for sending these videos to us!

EPA Releases Draft of Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan

The Environmental Protection Agency has submitted a draft of its Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan, which is to be reviewed by the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group of independent scientists that works with the agency.  According to the EPA’s news release, the focus of the study will be the lifespan of the water, from extraction to disposal of the waste water.

The 140 page draft has been made to the public. The SAB is scheduled to review the plan March 7th and 8th, and the plan will likely be edited based on their input.

Initial results of this study are expected by 2012, with an additional report due by 2014.