by Jan Hendryx, DO
As the unconventional development of natural gas from shale drum keeps beating “jobsand money”, I find myself perplexed and dismayed by the lack of media attentiondevoted to the disastrous environmental havoc and potential serious health issues createdby this activity.
Over the last year, my wife and I have had our lives turned upside down by Marcellusshale development near our rural home in Mt. Jewett. We have been forced to educateourselves on a daily basis about the many complex issues associated with this activity.
As a physician, I am extremely concerned about the health of all citizens and futuregenerations due to adverse events and toxic water and air exposures associated with shaledevelopment. Unfortunately, our political leaders and gas industry executives do notappear to share this concern. They have effectively blocked access to information aboutthe multitude of poisonous chemicals in fracking fluid by exempting it from the SafeDrinking Water Act.
DEP permits massive volumes of inadequately treated residual wastewater from thesewells containing large amounts of total dissolved solids, volatile cancer-causing organiccompounds, and radioactive substances to be discharged daily into our rivers, includingthe Allegheny and Clarion. These chemicals travel downstream and can seep intosuperficial aquifers along the watershed banks, or are taken up directly at communitydrinking water intakes for public consumption. Everyone “in charge” seems content to sitacross the table from us and offer a neighborly fracking fluid/residual waste cocktail todrink, bathe in, and inhale.
Governor Corbett just announced a streamlining of gas well permitting, cut backs in stateemployees (most likely decreasing oversight by DEP), and is refusing to tax the naturalgas industry, while cutting state budgets in all areas. As our communities are strappedeconomically and the roads and infrastructure destroyed by the parade of trucks carryingdrilling equipment, fracking fluid, water, and residual waste to and from well sites, wecontinue to welcome the gas companies into our homes and on our land like they are theSecond Coming of the Christ.
Deep shale natural gas drilling is spreading like a fast-growing uncontrolled cancerthroughout Pennsylvania with hundreds of thousands of wells predicted to be drilledover the next few decades. A massive campaign by multinational gas companies,consulting “experts”, politicians, and now our universities is attempting to transformmuch of the northeast U.S. into the “next Saudi Arabia”. Our exposure to the chemicalsused in the hydrofracturing process will most likely cause a marked increase in cancerand other illnesses. Our environment, drinking water, air quality, property values,roadways, and quality of life are being destroyed at a rapid pace.
What the gas companies and politicians aren’t telling us is that this development isn’t justfor our own energy sustainability, but for export to other countries. Natural gas is alreadybeing shipped to China, India, and elsewhere.
We need to wake up and stop burying our heads in the sand regarding these issues. Weall need to educate ourselves about the myriad of problems, and stop being sweet-talkedby the politicians, media, radio and TV commercials. It is already too late for residentsin Bradford, Dimock, Hickory Township and other communities who have had theirdrinking water, and possibly their homes, destroyed by gas drilling. It is too late forcitizens who have seen their property values drop by 85% once their well or spring hasbecome polluted.
We collectively need to take a stand NOW and urge our state and federal representativesto enact a ban on further unconventional deep shale development until the issues can beappropriately researched, addressed and resolved–and before it is too late for the rest ofPennsylvania. Our future depends on it!
For information about gas drilling, permits, violations, spills, residual waste dumpingat water treatment plants, and health and environmental issues, I urge you to go towww.fractracker.org. This is a website maintained by the University of PittsburghGraduate School of Public Health. I also urge you to go to the New York Times website,www.nytimes.com and read the series of “Drilling Deep” articles published fromFebruary 27-March 8, 2011 about the Pennsylvania debacle.
Jan Hendryx, DO, maintains a clinical practice in Erie, and is a native Bradfordian.
The above article was originally published in the Bradford Era on 3/14/11.
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