Just a few Faces in Frackland

It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless in this struggle to get the real story about drilling for natural gas into the eyes and ears of the residents in the areas where this is happening. For this reason I decided to take a larger step in getting closer to the truth.

This past weekend I took a trip to Washington County, PA to visit some of the folks in Hickory. This is the site of some of the very first hydro-fracked wells that existed in PA.After all, some of these wells went in back in 2005 so it seems that by this point they should all be millionaires living the good life, the economy should be well on the upturn with plenty of jobs…..at least this is what the gas industry keep telling us will be.

I have to say that isn’t quite how it’s gone down for the residents there.

I met with Ron Gulla who lost his 141 acre farm due to water pollution and dirty drilling practices by Range Resources.  Terry Greenwood and his wife are also farmers who have lost at least 7 cows due to contaminated pond and spring water. They are wondering when they might get sick too. Terry’s royalties are just enough to cover the cost of him meeting with his lawyer for 1 hour per month! He stuck in a perpetual lease signed in 1921.

Hickory Pa stinks…literally! Would you like to know what the smell of toluene, benzene, butane, ethane, propane and other NGL’s (natural gas liquids) smell like? Do you know what it’s like to go out your backdoor and walk 30 feet to the top of the ridge and get hit in the face with a blast of this stuff coming from a compressor station less than a mile from your house? Stephanie Hallowich sure does. After spending about 20 minutes in her yard I felt sick to my stomach and had a headache. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to live there!

Wayne and Angel smith live near Clearville, PA and they’ve lost livestock as well as beloved pets due to contaminated drinking water. Both Angel and her husband Wayne are sick themselves. They’ve spent over $10,000.00 on a system to treat their water which they also use to water livestock. They hope this system is working on their water problems but what’s going to clean the air that is full of contaminates from a nearby gas storage facility? Both Spectra Energy and the DEP have been called out many times to test and view these issues and each time they have turned a blind eye to the problems in this valley.

For more information on any of these people and their stories please click on their names.

In the future you will be able to find all their faces at http://pafaces.wordpress.com/

We will post a new face and new story each day. If you have a situation that you want others to hear about please contact me through a comment on this blog or directly from the site below.

http://pafaces.wordpress.com/

DEP: Gas industry treatment behind discharge on hillside

This article came to me this morning from the RDA. About an hour after receiving it I also received some info form them on what “airfoam HD” is and what is in it. See after the article.
By PATRICK DONLIN – pdonlin@sungazette.com
POSTED: March 17, 2010

WATERVILLE – A substance used in the natural gas drilling process is discoloring and distorting the texture of spring water running off a Cummings Township sidehill. Cheryl Sinclair, a geologist for the state Department of Environmental Protection, was collecting suspicious water samples mid-day Tuesday along Route 44, one mile south of Waterville. The mysterious substance was seen flowing down the slope, under the road and into Pine Creek, said Daniel T. Spadoni, spokesman for DEP’s northcentral region office. Officials from another state agency alerted DEP…

Terming it a surfactant, Spadoni said a substance known as Airfoam HD was causing the water run-off to be unnatural in appearance…. Surfactant used to treat Pennsylvania General Energy wells affected the water run-off, which Spadoni said had nothing to do with hydrofracturing….They were using the whitening substance as a lubricant that lowers the surface tension between air and water, according to Spadoni…

“They’re attempting to determine what caused this problem and what actions they can take to stop it,” Spadoni said of energy company representatives, with whom DEP members have been communicating… The only precaution Spadoni recommended to residents is to avoid the suspicious spring water run-off in the area….

“I don’t think you would want to drink this discharge,” he said.

The substance leaking down the hill isn’t listed as dangerous on a Material Safety Data Sheet, according to Spadoni.

“We don’t know for sure what its chemical composition is,” Spadoni said.

To read the full article and view all photos, click here:

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/540787.html?nav=5011

Some might ask:
(1) if we don’t know the chemical composition, how can we know if it is or is not on the Material Safety Data Sheet and is or is not dangerous?
(2) how to get the word out to illiterate wildlife and aquatic organisms not to drink from this stream.

From Damascus Citizens for Sustainability

2-Butoxylethanol (2-BE) is a foaming agent used for natural gas production and is proven to cause cancer in animals. 2-BE is a primary component of AirFoam HD, a product that has been found on drilling pads in Pennsylvania — the MSDS sheets for Air Foam HD state that is dissolves in water and that chronic exposure causes cancer.   Testing for 2-BE costs over $100 per test, and the cost burden is on the landholder — the DEP has failed to test for drilling or fracking chemicals in their standard tests which are only performed when landowners report problems in their water supply, not before the problems occur.  Residents who will soon have natural gas production occuring in their region or upstream from their groundwater supply must hire an independent water testing company to do a “baseline test” to show the lack of contaminants prior to the drilling.  Without a baseline test, it is more difficult to convict a drilling operator for water contamination – the drilling operator can claim that there is no proof that the contaminant was not in the groundwater supply prior to the drilling.

From TEDX

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
MSDSs are designed to inform those who handle, ship, and use the products about their physical and chemical
characteristics, and their direct and/or immediate health effects, in order to prevent injury while working with
the products.  The sheets are also designed to inform emergency response crews in case of accidents or spills.
The total reported composition of a product on an MSDS can be less than 0.1% up to 100%. MSDSs are not
submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for review. The product
manufacturers determine what is revealed on their MSDSs.
The health information on MSDSs most often warns of possible harm to the skin and eyes, gastrointestinal and
respiratory tracts, followed by the nervous system and brain. Many MSDSs do not address the outcome of long
term, intermittent or chronic exposures, or adverse health effects that may not be expressed until years after the
exposure.

RDA comment

2-Butoxylethanol (2-BE) is one of the nastier things the drilling industry uses, It is soluble in water, vaporizes in air, and is taken up through the skin. It can cause a very specific adrenal tumor linked to its exposure. According to Theo Colborn at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, it is implicated in a wide variety of health effects in most systems of the body and should be handled with great care.  Studies have indicated there is no known level of dilution where 2-BE doesn’t have effect on organisms. You can download the spread sheet at the link below.

http://www.endocrinedisruption.com/chemicals.fracturing.php

SRBC’S REAL-TIME WATER QUALITY DATA AVAILABLE ONLINE

Water Managers and Public Can Track if Streams Are Impacted by Pollution

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) today announced that real-time data from six initial remote water quality monitoring stations are now available on SRBC’s web site at www.srbc.net/programs/remotenetwork.htm.  A user-friendly map, graphs and charts are key features for viewing and understanding the data.

SRBC is deploying water quality monitoring stations in regions where natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale is most active, as well as other locations where no drilling activities are planned so SRBC can collect control-data.

SRBC’s remote water quality monitoring network continuously measures and reports water quality conditions of smaller rivers and streams in northern tier Pennsylvania and southern tier New York to track existing water quality conditions and any changes in them on an ongoing, real-time basis.

“The Commission is committed to applying good science to monitor water quality conditions in the Susquehanna basin,” said SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz.  “The use of advanced technology through these monitoring stations is making it possible for us to generate the data needed to determine whether or not water quality impacts are occurring from various activities, including natural gas drilling.”

Five of the initial monitoring stations are located in Pennsylvania on Meshoppen Creek near Kaiserville in Wyoming County, Sugar Creek near Troy and Tomjack Creek near Burlington in Bradford County, Hammond Creek near Millerton in Tioga County and Trout Run near Shawville in Clearfield County.  The sixth station is located on Choconut Creek near Vestal Center in Broome County, New York.

Each monitoring station is equipped with water quality sensors and a transmitter to continuously report water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity (water clarity), water depth and conductance (ability to conduct electricity).  Elevated levels of conductance in water can be a leading indicator of impacts from natural gas activities if they occur.

SRBC receives the data collected by the network then makes it available to other resource agencies and the public through its web site.  The monitoring network will provide early warnings to help environmental protection officials respond more rapidly and better pinpoint causes if water quality conditions change.  It will also help local public water suppliers, local watershed groups and communities stay informed.

SRBC will continue installing additional stations in Pennsylvania and New York and making data available on the web site.  Thirty (30) total stations are planned by summer 2010.  More stations will follow this fall as a result of additional funding commitments SRBC has received.

The Harrisburg-based SRBC (www.srbc.net) was established under an interstate compact signed on December 24, 1970 by the federal government and New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland to manage the water resources of the 27,510-square-mile Susquehanna River Basin.  The Susquehanna River starts in Cooperstown, N.Y., and flows 444 miles to Havre de Grace, Md., where the river meets the Chesapeake Bay.

Waterdog Update

Here’s an update on the Waterdog training coming up this month. Don’t forget to call Erika and let her know you are coming to the training. Contact me if you need her number.

Hello Waterdogs,

I wanted to let everyone know that I have finally confirmed the location for the Advanced Waterdog Training!!  It is Saturday, February 27, from 9-12 at the Ives Run Recreation area at the Tioga Hammond Lakes.  It will be held in the Visitor’s Center/Ranger Station.

This training is for current waterdogs only – but I only have some of the emails!!  I will be mailing out other fliers for those that I don’t have emails – so if you could please send this on to someone that you know is already a waterdog I would really appreciate it.  Also I have cards for everyone – I have redone the cards if you have already received one – they are more wallet friendly!!  So please let me know one way or the other if you are coming to the training – if you are not planning to attend the training I will mail your Id card to you.

Thank you,

Erica Tomlinson

Watershed Specialist

Tioga County Conservation District

RDA info and meeting places/times

Stop the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from caving in to mining and gas industry pressure. These industries would like to transfer the water quality of the Susquehanna River to their bottom line by using it as an inexpensive dump for their salt and chemically laden waste water.

Attend the hearing on Wednesday 16th at 5:00, DEP’s office in the Old Grit Building at 3rd and William Street, Williamsport. Your attendance will support DEP’s own research which has lead to a good proposed strategy for new TDS discharges. Without public support, DEP may be forced to retreat from its own recommendations.
BACKGROUND
Last April DEP published a strategy to protect Pennsylvania Rivers from becoming too saline by greatly limiting the amount of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in NEW discharges into the rivers.
This strategy came after critical conditions appeared in the Monongahela River Basin due to mining and gas industry discharges. Gas drilling waste water, which is extraordinarily high in TDS, put the already stressed river over the limit for potable water withdraw.  Bromines from gas industry waste water react with disinfectants used in water plants to produce carcinogenic secondary chemicals.  The result was a drinking water health advisory issued to thousands of water users.
This September, forty three miles of Dunkard Creek, which stitches back and forth across the boarders of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, experienced a massive fish kill. The culprit, which wiped out almost all animal life in the stream, was toxins produced by an invasive algae which can only thrive in brackish water.
Below are some excerpts from DEP’s preamble to the hearing. Link to complete document here.     http://pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol39/39-45/2065.html

“Total dissolved solids (TDS) is comprised of inorganic salts, organic matter and other dissolved materials in water.”

“TDS causes toxicity to water bodies through increases in salinity, changes in the ionic composition of the water, and toxicity of individual ions.”

“Several studies on the potential impacts to aquatic life from these large TDS discharges were also conducted on major tributaries flowing into the Monongahela River in Greene County, PA. Each of these studies documents the adverse effects of discharges of TDS, sulfates and chlorides on the aquatic communities in these receiving streams. The former concludes that there is a high abundance of halophilic (salt-loving) organisms downstream from the discharges of TDS and chlorides and a clear transition of fresh water organisms to brackish water organisms in the receiving stream from points above the discharge to points below. It is evident from this study that increases in salinity have caused a shift in biotic communities.

The Monongahela River Watershed is being adversely impacted by TDS discharges and many points in the watershed are already impaired, with TDS, sulfates and chlorides as the cause.

In addition, watershed analyses conducted by the Department (DEP) of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the Moshannon River Watersheds have documented that they are also severely limited in the capacity to assimilate new loads of TDS and sulfates.”

You are needed. Attend the hearing to support DEP’s proposed strategy, based on good science, for protecting Pennsylvania’s waterway.
To speak at the hearing call 717-787-4526 to register.

J. Public Hearings

The Board will hold four public hearings for the purpose of accepting comments on this proposal. The hearings will be held at 5 p.m. on the following dates:

December 14, 2009
5 p.m.
Cranberry Township Municipal  Building
2525 Rochester Road
Cranberry Township, PA 16066-6499
December 15, 2009
5 p.m.
Department of Environmental  Protection
Cambria District Office
286 Industrial Park Road
Ebensburg, PA 15931
December 16, 2009
5 p.m.
Department of Environmental Protection
Northcentral Regional Office
Goddard Conference Room
208 West Third Street,
Suite 101
Williamsport, PA 17701-6448
December 17, 2009
5 p.m.
Lehigh County Government Center
17 S. 7th Street
Allentown, PA 18101
responsible drilling alliance

Getting the water in your well tested?

If you are having a gas well put in on your property, I hope you are also having the water in your well tested prior to any drilling. Despite the costly manner of having your well water tested I would say that it should be a mandatory procedure. A basic test can be anywhere from $300.00 to $1,000.00. If you live next to someone else who is having a well put on their property you should also seriously consider having your well water tested.

There has been some discussion and worries about what sort of metals of chemicals and toxins should be tested for and who should/can to do the tests. Seewald laboratories out of Williampsort, PA offers well water testing that covers all the basic tests AND the procedures used by Seewald to test the water are acceptable and will hold up in a court of law. If you are using some of the other “mom & pop” testing companies who may not always follow all the correct procedures, such as “chain of custody”, or doing it yourself (which can be much more affordable – $80.00) the chances of the test being useful for a court case is pretty insignificant. The phone number for Seewald is 570.326.4001. If you think the chance of needing to take the gas company drilling on your land, or your neighbors, is not likely, check out this link.

http://www.topix.com/com/cog

Penn State Cooperative Extention has published this, which you might find useful if you are wanting more information about water well contamination, what’s in the ground that can get in your well and water testing.

http://resources.cas.psu.edu/WaterResources/pdfs/gasdrilling.pdf

What can Tioga County residents do about water quality issues?

By AUDREY PATTERSON – Sun-Gazette Correspondent-November 2nd, 2009

WELLSBORO – Water quality issues associated with gas well drilling and its environmental impacts were at the forefront of an Oct. 21 Tiadaghton Audubon Society meeting at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center. More than 30 people attended and also learned how they can undergo training to help ensure the health of local streams.

Permits have been issued for 172 gas well drilling locations in Tioga County, and that number is expected to increase, said speakers Jim Weaver, Tioga County planner, and Ron Comstock, president of the Pine Creek Headwaters Protect Group.

“Water quality is one of our biggest concerns right now,” Weaver said. “Surface water withdrawal from local streams for ‘fracking,’ especially from sensitive wild trout streams, could have significant impacts.”

Fracking is the term given to the process of mixing water and sand to unlock gas sealed within the Marcellus Shale rock formation.

Drilling waste or “brine” – a mixture of water, salt, chemicals and natural materials – either is taken to water treatment facilities or trickled back into waterways through dilution.

Tioga County does not have brine water treatment facilities, making proper disposal another concern, Weaver said.

Attendees appeared shocked to learn that discharging brine back into waterways is legal.

Fracking materials or brine can break into aquifers, polluting underground drinking water supplies.

Such pollution affects local streams and may cause increases in water temperature, which decreases dissolved oxygen levels trout need for survival.

Water withdrawal and disposal activities also can cause a loss of habitat due to destruction of spawning areas. Surface water withdrawal is occurring at five locations in Tioga County.

Weaver encouraged citizens to speak with local representatives and encourage their support of legislation that brine water meets drinking water standards.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is responsible for issuing permits, inspections and responding to complaints about water quality.

Weaver advised participants who live near drilling sites that it “behooves all of us to get our water tested now.”

Materials that can appear at high levels in contaminated water include benzene, ethyl benzene, toluene, xylene, heavy metals, salt and radioactive materials.

He also mentioned health and safety issues associated with “free gas,” which is a natural gas that escapes from bedrock and can leak into drinking water aquifers and homes. It is odorless, colorless and highly flammable.

Homeowners wouldn’t even know if it was in their home or drinking water until it caught on fire, Weaver said.

Weaver told the county home- and landowners that they can call the Tioga County Cooperative Extension office at 724-9120 for information about water testing.

DEP will respond to concerns, he added, but without baseline data from water tests conducted before drilling, there will be no sure way to assess impacts cause by gas drilling.

Pine Creek Headwaters Protect Group is working to educate local citizens about waterways monitoring, specifically Pine Creek and its tributaries, Comstock said.

The program, called Waterdogs, trains citizens to recognize health and safety issues and environmental problems associated with gas well drilling.

Waterdogs are given a logbook and resource information that can be used if they observe a potential hazard. Training also includes proper reporting of hazards.

Gas well representatives are aware of the Waterdogs program, Comstock said, adding that the protect group hopes to train as many Waterdogs as possible.

The next training session is 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8 at Pennsylvania College of Technology’s North Campus in Wellsboro. Advance registration is required, and a $10 fee applies.

For more information, or to register, call Eric Tomlinson at 724-1801, ext 118.

Patterson, a naturalist and author, lives in the town of Wellsboro. She may be contacted through her Web site, www.pagrandcanyon.webs.com.