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Map of Pavilion WY

EPA: Fracking and Groundwater Contamination

Map of Pavillion, WY

Pavillion, WY

The Internet is alive today after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report that indicates hydraulic fracturing (used when drilling for natural gas in tight shale formations) can contaminate groundwater. Residents of Pavillion, WY have been complaining about the state of their groundwater for some time now. The draft EPA report lends credibility to their claims with the finding that chemicals associated with the process were found in some deep water aquifers in the area. And when you look at all of the evidence around this issue – outside of the EPA’s study – the results are even more ‘ground-breaking.’

Having said that, there are a few questions regarding the EPA report/research. No field study could ever account for all of the potential confounders and variables – especially given the amount of resources the EPA had at its disposal to conduct this work. However, some of the most significant questions that I would like to see answered before this draft is finalized include:

  1. How representative is the data from the two monitoring wells in relation to residents’  drinking water wells?
  2. Has the potential for surface contamination of the monitoring wells been ruled out?
  3. Why weren’t the duplicate samples that were analyzed by separate labs also able to detect 2-BE?

These questions (and surely more) are exactly why this is only a draft report. According to the EPA, it will be available for a 45-day public comment period. A subsequent 30-day peer-review process will be led by a panel of independent scientists to ensure that the results that stay on the records are accurate.

Flood Control and Shale Gas Wells

Flooding from Hurricane Irene in Wilkes-Barre PA

Photo Credit: Salvation Army, Randall Thomas, Wilkes-Barre, PA

Pennsylvania is no stranger to water and flooding, as we receive between 38 and 45 inches of rain per year on average. Unfortunately, the storms that hit the region starting on August 27th were more than we could handle – to say the least. During this time Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee burdened the eastern portion of the state with flooding at water levels that rivaled Hurricane Agnes (1972).

While most residents hit hardest by flooding focused on protecting their families, homes, and livelihoods, others throughout the Commonwealth were also concerned about the impact that rising water levels could have on natural gas well pads. This is especially an issue for those sites operating in floodplains with open frac ponds. According to the reports we have been able to gather no shale gas well sites were compromised or sustained environmental damage in PA.  Apparently, Marcellus Shale drillers were advised to prevent overflows from wastewater/’frac’ ponds by the governor, although due to a communication loophole it is unclear as to whether all of the relevant sites temporarily shut down during the inclement weather. Regardless, with the number of wells being drilled in PA especially in the northeast, being able to prevent any incidents during these storms is quite a feat on the part of the drillers and should be recognized as such. Industry reports also indicate that drilling companies provided financial contributions, expertise, equipment, work hours, and supplies to aid in the flood relief efforts. Learn more about these contributions here.

We ask that if you have any knowledge that contradicts this information, please let us know and contact your local representative to report the incident.

Groundwater Contamination Debate


The Debate
: Can the process of hydraulically fracturing underground natural gas wells contaminate groundwater?

Industry Position:  There has never been a documented case of groundwater contamination due to hydraulic fracturing; the process occurs thousands of feet below drinking water aquifers. Therefore, the chemicals used in the fracturing process pose no threat to drinking water.

Opposition Position:  It can and has contributed to pollution of underground drinking water sources.

The Data:  Previous lawsuits from landowners were settled by the industry and the data kept private for various litigation reasons. A U.S. EPA report now indicates that hydraulic fracturing has been linked to at least one case of drinking water contamination in West Virginia in 1987 and could feasibly contribute to future problems.

Future Obligations:  Some improved regulations and protections have been put in place since 1987, but the risk still exists if natural gas drilling is done hastily or if abandoned wells exist nearby. Once pollutants are introduced into underground water aquifers they are very difficult to remove, so significant care and review must be taken if drilling is going to continue. The EPA report further supports the need for increased government and industry transparency across the board. It should also be stated that a large-scale health impact assessment is needed to comprehensively determine the risk that the entire natural gas drilling operation poses to public health.


Compiled by: Samantha Malone, MPH, CPH – Communications Specialist, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC), Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) department, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH); and Doctoral Student, GSPH

SRBC Water Withdrawal Permits and Water Quality Monitoring

March 2011 SRBC Water Withdrawals (small)
Susquehanna River Basin Commission water withdrawal permits issued on March 10, 2011. Please click the image for a larger, more dynamic view.

Water Withdrawals

On March 24th, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission released notes about the public portion of their quarterly Commission meeting, which included a variety of water withdrawal permits. Specific locations were not included in the report, so the geographic information available on our DataTool is approximate.


March 2011 SRBC Water Withdrawals by Source Type. Please click the information tool (“i” button) then a map feature for more information. Please click on the gray compass rose and double carat (^) to hide those menus.


Water permits issued by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission at their March 2011 quarterly meeting by water source type, in millions of gallons per day.


March 2011 SRBC Water Withdrawals by Industry Type. Please click the information tool (“i” button) then a map feature for more information. Please click on the gray compass rose and double carat (^) to hide those menus.


Water permits issued by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission at their March 2011 quarterly meeting by applicant’s industry type, in millions of gallons per day.

The financial sector in the chart above is represented by Peoples Financial Services. Their own company website is almost completely useless, but the New York Times explains that they are a commercial and retail bank, primarily active in Susquehanna and Wyoming counties. There is no reason to think that a regional bank would go through a million gallons of water a day, so their permit request seems likely to be on behalf of one of their clients.

The total permitted amount approved on March 10, 2011 is 15.695 million gallons per day. According to the American Water Works Association, the average daily per capita residential water usage is 69.3 gallons, meaning that the water permits approved in the Susquehanna River Basin this month is the equivalent to the water usage of 226,479 people.

Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network

While we are discussing the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, they have an interesting tool called the Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network, which is a collection of solar powered water monitoring stations, and provides real time data for pH, conductance, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. In browsing this for a moment or two, the pH level for Canacadea Creek near Almond, NY stuck out. It’s value of 3.87 is acidic enough to kill most fish and macroinvertebrates. The tool also has historic data, which shows that a month and a half ago, the pH from the same location was up at 8.79 pH units.

While I certainly hope that the SRBC and other authorities in New York figure out what’s going on in Canacadea Creek, I applaud the transparency that the Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network brings to the table. In the 21st Century, residents should have access to tools of this nature to alert them to real-time environmental challenges in their own communities.

Natural Gas Drilling, Clean Water, and Mr. Pittsburgh

By Matthew S. Freiberg, MD, MSc, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh

First and foremost, the issue at stake here is Pittsburgh’s need to have clean water for overall public health as well as for economic viability now and in the future. It should go without saying that if Pittsburgh is labeled a city with contaminated or polluted water, Pittsburgh will have an impossible time recruiting new businesses to the area, maintaining the businesses it does have, and it will be saddled with the economic burden of clean up plus health care costs.

Therefore, it is essential that Pittsburgh acts to ensure that its water sources remain clean.Pittsburgh should be vigilant about its water supply because recent events suggest industry has not always been correct.

Not so long ago, the American public was told by the Tobacco Industry that “nicotine is not addictive” and “smoking does not cause lung cancer.” We, of course, now know this is not true, but the damage has been and continues to be done every day all over the world. As a physician in Pittsburgh, I can tell you first hand that our community continues to pay a huge price for these huge mistakes.

More recently, the American public was told that the banking industry did not require intense regulation or oversight because “the market” would correct any problems. Is there is any one in America right now who believes that the banking industry should oversee itself?We are now told that our drinking water is “safe” based on recent testing in our local rivers, and our newly elected officials are suggesting that additional regulations for the Natural gas industry are not necessary.

My response to these comments is that history often repeats itself, but it does not have to.So, how should Pittsburgh approach this problem?

Consider the following story about a patient named Mr. Pittsburgh

Mr. Pittsburgh presents to the hospital with chest pain. Mr. Pittsburgh smokes, has high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Mr. Pittsburgh and his family are concerned he is having a heart attack. The doctor agrees and decides to check his blood for evidence of damage to his heart. After an hour of waiting, the doctor returns with good news: Mr. Pittsburgh has not had a heart attack. However, the doctor does tell Mr. Pittsburgh that checking his blood is not the way to prevent a heart attack. Checking his blood only tells him if he has had a heart attack. The way to prevent the heart attack is to quit smoking and to lower his blood pressure and cholesterol. The doctor also explains to Mr. Pittsburgh that if he continues to smoke and have high blood pressure and high cholesterol that he will likely have a heart attack. This heart attack may kill him. If Mr. Pittsburgh survives his heart attack, he may still have a permanently damaged heart. At the very least, the doctor says that Mr. Pittsburgh will require medication that can be very expensive for the rest of his life.

The case of Mr. Pittsburgh is exactly what we are facing with drilling for natural gas and protecting our drinking water. While I applaud the initiative to check the water, the answer to protecting our drinking water for the good of our public health and economic viability lies in prevention. The keys to prevention are ensuring that the processes by which natural gas is extracted, the chemicals used in the process of FRACKING, and the disposal of waste water associated with FRACKING are safe.

How does Mr. Pittsburgh ensure safety?

Well, let’s take a look at the some of the regulations that are required for a new medicine to be used on patients.

When physicians conduct clinical trials involving patients to determine if a new medicine is safe and effective for people, the physicians and scientists conducting the trial are NEVER allowed to be in charge of overseeing the safety issues involving their own trial. There is a completely separate group of physicians and scientists who serve on a Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB). The DSMB’s job and responsibility is to ensure the safety of the patients in the study and the DSMB has the authority to stop any trial that is a danger to the patients in the trial. This is a good system because it reduces the possibility that a conflict of interest will occur between the physicians and the outcome of the trial. Allowing physicians to run studies while also determining whether the study is safe for the participants is a clear conflict of interest and it compromises the integrity of the science.

So if medicine requires this level of oversight to protect patient safety, why should the natural gas industry not be subject to the same strict oversight? Ensuring clean drinking water is just as vital to a person’s health as is ensuring that the medication a patient takes is safe. Given what is at stake, public health and sustained economic viability of Mr. Pittsburgh’s city, Mr. Pittsburgh should demand the same level of independent oversight of the natural gas industry as is currently practiced and strictly enfored for clinical trials involving new medications.

Why should we consider re-evaluating the FRACKING Mechanism or any part of the drilling process for that matter?

In medicine, we are always reviewing, re-evaluating, and reconsidering patient treatment guidelines. The reason we do this is because new science is always happening and sometimes new science suggests a better way to care for people or that our current way of caring for patients may not be as safe as we once thought. In the case of FRACKING, recent documents provided by the New York Times suggest that this process poses more than a reasonable risk to our drinking water supply. Like science, laws, policies, and regulations need to be constantly revisited and changed when appropriate. In Mr. Pittsburgh’s case, it is no longer clear, based on the new science that our current laws, regulations, and policies are adequately providing the necessary protections to ensure clean and safe drinking water.

Final Thoughts

Pittsburgh and SW Pennsylvania are sitting on one of the largest sources of natural gas anywhere. Companies are going to want to drill here, and they will make large amounts of money doing so. While there may be benefits for Pittsburgh and SW Pennsylvania in terms of jobs and revenue, there are clearly risks associated with this drilling. There is very little doubt the current situation is a “win” for industry. What we (Mr. Pittsburgh’s community) need is to be sure of that there is a win for us, our children, grand children and future generations long after the natural gas is gone and the natural gas companies have left. It is precisely the “win” for us that I am concerned about and I believe is not being adequately addressed.How might we “win” in this situation?

We can only “win” if the water supply remains undamaged. We will surely lose our health and our economic viability if our water is polluted. We will not be the only “loser” either. Our families, children, and future generations will also “lose” if we don’t “win.”

To help us “win,” we should demand of our U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives. Director of the EPA, Governor, Legislature, local officials, and the industry itself the following:A true preventive strategy: continue regular random checks of drinking water sources—both rivers and well water for those closest to the drilling PLUS regular random checks of the drilling wells, waste water, and waste water disposal processes—checking water only tells us that a “heart attack” has happened. What we need is to prevent “the heart attack.”

Stricter oversight of the natural gas industry by a “Data Safety Monitoring Board”, preferably not affiliated with the state of Pennsylvania in order to minimize any conflict of interest: Clean water is just as important as safe medicine and it requires the same level of oversight as a new medicine in order to protect us, our family, friends and neighbors from having “a heart attack.”

An efficient and expedited review of the FRACKING materials and procedures and processes for monitoring waste water and waste water disposal. New information requires new evaluations. Our health and the area’s economic viability for the future requires that all procedures associated with natural gas drilling be safe and present no threat to the drinking water supply. The determination of whether FRACKING and other procedures are safe should again be conducted by a Data Safety Monitoring Board.

Because no one can possibly tell everyone who needs to know about this issue, we should ask for the following help:

  • The local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations should continue to follow this topic understanding that this process of drilling will last years.
  • The Carnegie museums should have an exhibit on the Marcellus Shale. This exhibit should clearly state the potential benefits and clear risks affecting the region of SW PA and Pittsburgh by drilling for natural gas.
  • Universities, colleges, and school districts in SW PA should educate students about the Marcellus Shale and how this natural gas drilling will affect their everyday lives. This information will be essential as they decide how to deal with this process including who to vote for and on what policies to vote for so that our drinking water and economic viability remain secure.

In my opinion, the current conditions are NOT a “win win” situation for us. Without a true preventive strategy, stricter oversight, a serious review of the FRACKING procedure, waste water, and waste water disposal, and sustained community involvement, I think we are all in danger of losing our clean drinking water and with it our health and the economically viability of our community for now and for future generations. We all understand that the decisions of today will impact several future generations, and the impact of these decisions will be present long after the natural gas and the natural gas industry are gone.


Matthew S. Freiberg, MD, MSc
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology
Division of General Internal Medicine and Center for Research on Health Care
University of Pittsburgh
230 McKee Place, Suite 623
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
telephone 412 586 9847
fax 412 692 4838
email: freibergms@upmc.edu

Ohio River Barium Concentration Trending Upward

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) has been testing the main stem of the Ohio River for the presence of a variety of metals for some time, with results since 1998 published at their website. Mappable versions (1) of this data from 2010 are now posted on FracTracker’s DataTool as well. Over the years, the scope of the ORSANCO sampling efforts has broadened, both in the number of sampling locations as well as sampling frequency. In recent years, there are seventeen (2) locations, from which samples are obtained every odd numbered month. Currently, the most recent data available is July 2010.
Given the rapid surge in Marcellus Shale oil and gas drilling activity within the ORSANCO drainage basin and the millions of gallons of wastewater that ultimately finds its way into the Ohio River by way of numerous treatment plants and road deicing, I wanted to see if the impact of this industrial activity was reflected in the data.

[map archived]

I decided to take a look at barium concentrations. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, background levels of barium are not especially high in this region (3), noting:

…[Barium] occurs naturally in almost all (99.4%) surface waters examined, in concentration of 2 to 340 ug/l, with an average of 43 ug/l. The drainage basins with low mean concentration of barium (15 ug/l) occur in the western Great Lakes, and the highest mean concentration of 90 ug/l is in the southwestern drainage basins of the lower Mississippi Valley. In stream water and most groundwater, only traces of the element are present.

Barium is also a signature constituent of sorts of Marcellus Shale wastewater. According to this industry report, barium values range from 2,000 to 6,500 milligrams per liter in the wastewater.

[map archived]

This gives us an idea of how concentrations vary in space, at least on this occasion. Note that each of the first four testing locations downstream from the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh are among the highest group, with barium values in the 56.7 to 70.8 micrograms per liter (µg/L)range. These values are at once notably above the average background level and well below the EPA drinking water standard for barium of 2 milligrams per liter (4).

But what about changes over time? Marcellus Shale drilling activity has been increasing exponentially since the first well was drilled in 2006. Could this activity have any long term effects? To investigate this point, I compiled the barium amounts since 2006, and selected the three testing locations closest to Pennsylvania: New Cumberland Locks and Dam, Pike Island Locks and Dam, and Hannibal Locks and Dam.

ORCANCO barium values at New Cumberland, Pike Island, and Hannibal testing locations. Please click here for a larger view.

Right off the bat, we can see that there are significant seasonal variances, with peaks in late summer, and troughs in the late spring. That appears to be inversely proportional to the average flow rate of the Ohio River.


Average annual flow rate of the Ohio River at Wheeling, WV. Units are in Thousands of cubic feet per second (KCBS), and represent values between 9-1-98 and 2-29-08. Detailed flow data is available here.

Since barium values are clearly lower when there is more water in the river, it seems likely that such fluctuations would be due to dilution of pollution rather than natural circumstances.

Seasonal differences aside, the dashed trendlines of barium concentration show another story. Barium values are going up at all three locations. Significantly.


Approximate start and end values for the trendlines representing barium content in micrograms per liter at three testing locations on the Ohio River.

So while the recorded values themselves in the main stem of the northeastern portion of the Ohio River are not alarming, the fact that they are increasing so rapidly is a concern. It is worth bearing in mind that the values in some tributaries might be much higher, and that barium is only one of many pollutants associated with Marcellus Shale wastewater disposal.

Of course, none of this amounts to establishing causation between the Marcellus Shale industry and the elevated barium levels, but the circumstantial evidence is strong: barium values are very high in the wastewater, which is finding its way in large amounts into the Ohio River, where barium values are rising sharply.

  1. Locations were found with Google Maps, based on location description. In most cases, samples were taken from specific locks and dam structures, allowing for a fairly exact location. Some other locations are designated by the name of a small town, in which case, the mapped locations may be off by a mile or so.
  2. There is now an eighteenth testing location, McAlpine, 0.2 miles downstream of the Louisville testing station.
  3. While surface water is typically low in barium here, well water can be a significant issue:

    The drinking water of many communities in Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, & New Mexico contains concentrations of barium that may be 10 times higher than the drinking water standard. The source of these supplies is usually well water. Currently 60 ground water supplies and 1 surface water supply exceeds 1000 ug/l.

  • While these numbers are not alarming, it is worth noting that they are measured at an extremely well mixed area (locks and dams) of a massive river; at the time of this writing, the flow at Wheeling, WV was 134,700 cubic feet per second. Barium values on some tributaries could be much higher.

Groups Announce Legal Action to Stop Sewage Plants from Dumping Gas Drilling Wastewater in PA Rivers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Groups Announce Legal Action to Stop Sewage Plants from
Dumping Gas Drilling Wastewater in Pennsylvania Rivers

— McKeesport and Franklin Twp. plants targeted —

(Pittsburgh) – Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper served legal noticestoday on two sewer authorities that have been discharging Marcellus Shale gas drillingwastewater into the Monongahela River watershed south of Pittsburgh. The noticesdetail violations of the federal Clean Water Act by the facilities, primarily for dischargingwastewater without a permit. Both EPA and the Pennsylvania DEP were notified as wellof the legal action. This is the first time a legal action has been filed to stop the currentdischarge of Marcellus drilling wastewater.

The two sewer authorities targeted are the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport inAllegheny County and the Franklin Township Sewer Authority, located in Greene County.McKeesport discharges up to 100,000 gallons per day of Marcellus drilling wastewater intothe Monongahela River. Franklin Twp. discharges up to 50,000 gallons per day into TenMile Creek, a tributary of the Monongahela River. The Monongahela supplies drinkingwater for nearly a half million people, including a portion of the City of Pittsburgh.

“We cannot wait any longer to rely on the state and EPA to act,” stated Myron Arnowitt,PA State Director for Clean Water Action. “These sewage plants have been illegallydischarging gas drilling wastewater into our rivers since 2008 without a permit as requiredby the Clean Water Act. They should immediately stop accepting gas drilling wastewaterand if they want to accept it, they should apply for a permit to do so,” Arnowitt stated.

“Our rivers have made a miraculous recovery over the past few decades, thanks – in largepart – to laws that protect the public’s right to clean rivers and safe drinking water. Theselaws are public health laws and their strict enforcement has a direct, positive effect on thehealth of our rivers, our communities, and our citizens,” stated Ned Mulcahy, ExecutiveDirector for Three Rivers Waterkeeper. “We demand that these facilities stop acceptingtruck after truck of this wastewater and that the DEP and EPA take all necessary actionsto ensure that our rivers, our drinking water, and our communities are protected from thehealth hazards posed by improper treatment and illegal discharges,” Mulcahy stated.

Pennsylvania DEP has previously issued consent orders with both facilities that purportto allow the sewage plants to accept and discharge Marcellus wastewater. Arnowittstated, “DEP’s consent orders are private deals that are negotiated without public input.

The public is not notified and there are no public hearings as there would be if they appliedfor a Clean Water Act permit to discharge appropriately treated Marcellus wastewater. Ifthis wastewater is as safe as the gas industry says it is, lets have a public process so wecan see what the impact really is,” stated Arnowitt.

Water samples recently taken by University of Pittsburgh researchers downstream ofarea wastewater plants have shown elevated levels of numerous contaminants found inMarcellus wastewater including: total dissolved solids, chlorides, bromides, barium, andstrontium.

Although DEP had previously issued in 2010 strict wastewater treatment standards formost oil and gas wastewater sources, the new rule grandfathered all existing plants thatare currently discharging Marcellus wastewater. No plants in Pennsylvania that arecurrently discharging Marcellus wastewater are capable of removing contaminants to thelevel required by the 2010 wastewater rule.

EPA Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin sent a letter this week to Acting DEPSecretary Krancer concerning Marcellus wastewater discharge permits. The letter readin part, “These permits do not now include critical provisions necessary for effectiveprocessing and treatment of wastewaters from drilling operations.”

The legal action that is being filed today is the first step in what is referred to as a citizensuit under the Clean Water Act. When government agencies fail to address violations ofthe Clean Water Act this federal law allows any citizen to sue for enforcement of the law.The filing today is the legally required “Notice of Intent” informing all parties of the Clean Water Act violations at issue.

The legal filing from Clean Water Action and Three Rivers Waterkeeper can bedownloaded here.

Clean Water Action has more than 120,000 members statewide in Pennsylvania and isthe nation’s largest grassroots group focused on water, energy and environmental health.Clean Water Action’s 1 million members, participate in Clean Water Action’s programs forclean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution, and creation ofenvironmentally-safe jobs and businesses. Clean Water Action’s nonpartisan campaignsempower people to make democracy work.

The mission of Three Rivers Waterkeeper is to ensure that communities throughoutSouthwestern Pennsylvania have safe water to drink, clean rivers to enjoy, and themeans necessary to defend their right to both. To accomplish this mission, Three RiversWaterkeeper will engage in education and outreach, work with communities and theirleaders, partner with government actors and NGOs, patrol the rivers, monitor water quality,and hold polluters accountable under the law.

CONTACT:
Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action, 412-592-1283
Ned Mulcahy, Three Rivers Waterkeeper, 412-589-4720
###

Reflections: Homage to Dunkard Creek

 

Art Competition

Postmark Deadline Entry: March 15, 2011

Extent of 2009 Dunkard Creek Fish Kill

It is said that the living can freely move on only when they have helped the newly dead rest in peace. Reflections is a collaborative installation by more than 100 artists to commemorate the lives of the 116 species who perished in Dunkard Creek during the warm days of late summer 2009. The creek literally died when a fatal combination of chemical mine wastes and low water, exacerbated by “frac” drilling water withdrawals, set off the bloom of an alien toxic algae, suffocating an estimated 18,000-22,000 animals.

The forty-three mile Dunkard Creek meanders across the Pennsylvania and West Virginia state lines before it flows into the Monongahela River, recently listed as one of America’s 10 most endangered rivers. The Monongahela River supplies drinking water to 850,000 people.

Water is an age-old symbol for purity, clarity, and calm. The artists participating in Reflections are united by a common body of water, the Monongahela Watershed. To honor the tragedy that befell this watershed, each artist will ‘adopt’ and memorialize one of the 116 species of animals who perished, to celebrate the life of that species with an original work of art.

Eligibility

Reflections is open to practicing artists over 18 years of age living on, near, or connected to the Monongahela River Watershed (the area where the water under it or draining off of it goes into the Monongahela River).

Media

Open to traditional or non-traditional media (e.g. painting, drawing, print, collage, etc., but no photography) applied to a 7”x10.25” sheet of 140 lbs Arches hot press paper mounted with archival gel to a hardboard panel (provided by organizer).

To Enter

Completed applications, a brief bio, and $25 entry fee must be received no later than March 15, 2011. Upon application, artists will be randomly matched to a species. (Species cannot be reassigned.) The application process will close when all 116 species have been assigned. Completed work must be submitted by August 1, 2011.

To request the application form or if you have questions, please contact Ann Payne at 304.292.7673 or Paynestake@frontier.com.

PA Fish and Boat Commission Targets Gas Extraction as Resource Threat

Archived

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


Wastewater Facilities Accepting Marcellus Shale Brine and Major Drainage Basins. Click the map for a larger, dynamic view.

By Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH.
Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities

Management Plans by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have been released for public comment for the 3 major drainages in Pennsylvania:

Public meetings on each of these draft plans are underway and dates and times and places of future meetings for each basin are now available on the PFBC website.

The PFBC has as its goal of these management plans – to protect, conserve and enhance the aquatic resources of and provide fishing and boating opportunities. The PFBC also has an important role in investigating releases of brine water from oil and gas extraction operations. Mr. John Arway the Executive Director of the PFBC just published in the January / February Edition of Pennsylvania Angler and Boater a very sobering assessment of water withdrawals and permitted pollution of Pennsylvania waterways by NPDES permit holders. He states that end users of municipal water are paying increased costs for water purification because of companies that are allowed to pollute receiving waters. This is a very courageous statement and I concur wholly with him on this. His complete statement can be found here.

Below are presented excerpts from the PFBC Draft Three Rivers Management Plan that pertains to Marcellus Shale gas extraction. Most important is their statement in the draft plan that in 2008, several wastewater treatment plants located along the Monongahela River were accepting frac-flowback water from multiple sources. Unable to completely treat this water, plant outflows caused a temporary spike in conductivity (readings as high as 1,200 μS/cm) and total dissolved solids (TDS readings as high as 900 mg/L) in the Monongahela River during October and November 2008. Other passages related to Marcellus are:

  • “In June 2010, the Monongahela River was named number nine of the top ten America’s Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers primarily because of continuing threats from water pollution impacts from natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale.”
  • “Since 2008, PADEP Southwest Regional Office in Pittsburgh has directed a comprehensive
    water quality monitoring investigation of the Monongahela River related to impacts from disposal of contaminated frac-flowback water from Marcellus Shale drilling sites. This office has also surveyed fish, mussel, and invertebrate assemblages of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers as well as collected water quality and sediment quality samples and evaluated riparian and instream habitats for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Environmental
    Monitoring and Assessment Program for Great Rivers Ecosystems (EMAP-GRE). PADEP will
    provide PFBC information and results of Allegheny and Monongahela EMAP-GRE when the
    project is complete (in 2011).”
  • “Marcellus Shale is a unit of Devonian-age sedimentary rock found throughout the Appalachian
    Plateau. Named for a distinctive outcrop located near the village of Marcellus, New York,
    Marcellus Shale contains a massive and largely untapped natural gas reserve, which has high
    economic potential (trillions of dollars) given its proximity to high-demand markets in the eastern United States. Using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques, numerous Marcellus Shale wells have been installed within the upper Ohio River basin for exploitation of natural gas.”
  • “With any resource extraction operation, there are environmental consequences. For Marcellus
    Shale drilling, most issues involve the transport, treatment, and disposal of contaminated frac flowback water, a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing. In 2008, several wastewater treatment
    plants located along the Monongahela River were accepting frac-flowback water from multiple
    sources. Unable to completely treat this water, plant outflows caused a temporary spike in
    conductivity (readings as high as 1,200 μS/cm) and total dissolved solids (TDS readings as high
    as 900 mg/L) in the Monongahela River during October and November 2008.”
  • “Some Monongahela River tributaries continue to be disturbed by modern industries, such as longwall mining and Marcellus Shale drilling, including Dunkard Creek and Tenmile Creek. Major tributary streams of the upper Ohio River include Chartiers Creek (one of the most disturbed streams in the basin from numerous perturbations), Raccoon Creek (a recovering stream), and the Beaver River system.”

Oil, Natural Gas, and Natural Gas Fluids Drilling and Production in the Inland United States Waters of the Great Lakes?

 

By: C. D. Volz, DrPH, MPH
Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities

Is it possible that there will, in the future, be offshore oil and gas platforms in the Great Lakes regions of the United States? The answer is that it has already occurred in Lake Michigan and certainly could be radically expanded with new advances in directional drilling and hydrofracturing of unconventional oil and gas reserves. Oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes was allowed by the State of Michigan but new drilling was subsequently banned by the state legislature. The issuance of new permits for new drilling in the Great Lakes was banned by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109- 58, §386). Canadian law though permits onshore oil and gas drilling under the Great Lakes and offshore gas drilling in the Great Lakes (see Congressional Research Service Document, Drilling in the Great Lakes: Background and Issues, 2006.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) completed an assessment of the undiscovered oil and gas potential of the U.S. portions of the Appalachian Basin and the Michigan Basin in 2002 and 2004, respectively The USGS has done an assessment of oil and gas reserves under US portions of the Great Lakes and reports mean levels of recoverable oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids at 311.71 million barrels of oil (MMBO), 5,228.71 billion cubic feet of gas (BCFG) (equal to 5.228 trillion cubic feet of gas), and 121.68 million barrels of natural gas liquids (M MBNGL), respectively. There have been 8-eight petroleum systems identified underlying United States portions of the Great Lakes. These are the;

  1. Precambrian Nonesuch TPS
  2. Ordovi¬cian Foster TPS
  3. [Ordovician] Utica-Lower Paleozoic TPS
  4. Ordovician to Devonian Composite TPS
  5. Silurian Niagara/Salina TPS
  6. Devonian Antrim TPS
  7. Devonian Shale-Middle and Upper Paleozoic TPS
  8. Pennsylvanian Saginaw TPS.

Each of the above systems is named for the source rock(s) of that system and there is only one source rock for each of the listed systems except the Ordovician to Devonian Composite TPS, which is a composite petroleum system. The Ordovician to Devonian Composite TPS is made up of one or a combination of the following source rocks; the Ordovician Collingwood Shale, Devonian Detroit River Group, and the Devonian Antrim Shale. For more information, see the complete USGS fact sheet, Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources Underlying the U.S. Portions of the Great Lakes, 2005, Fact Sheet 2006–3049, April 2006.


Extent of the Utica Shale Formation. Click on the gray compass rose to hide the legend.

This FracTracker snapshot of the extent of the Utica Shale shows that it underlays the major extent of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario in both United States and Canada territorial waters.