Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is calling for a study aimed at reversing the increase in workplace deaths that has accompanied the boom in natural gas drilling and production from the Marcellus Shale fields in Northern West Virginia. –
From the January 2015 issue of the scientific journal, “Environmental Health Perspectives” come these excerpts from a health study of 180 households (492 persons) with ground-fed water wells living within 1-2 miles of fracking in Washington County, PA:
“Gas well proximity for each household was compared with the prevalence and frequency of reported dermal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms.
Results: The number of reported health symptoms per person was higher among residents living < 1 km (mean ± SD, 3.27 ± 3.72) compared with > 2 km from the nearest gas well (mean ± SD, 1.60 ± 2.14; p = 0.0002).
… reported skin conditions were more common in households < 1 km compared with > 2 km from the nearest gas well….
Upper respiratory symptoms were also more frequently reported in persons living in households < 1 km from gas wells (39%) compared with households 1–2 km or > 2 km from the nearest well (31 and 18%, respectively) (p = 0.004).
Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that natural gas drilling activities could be associated with increased reports of dermal and upper respiratory symptoms in nearby communities; these results support the need for further research into health effects of natural gas extraction activities.”
Health concerns about oil field fracking have been focused on the mixed brew of chemicals injected into wells. But it is another innocuous-sounding substance — sand — that poses a more serious danger to workers.
Government overseers of workplace safety first highlighted the problem three years ago and issued a hazard alert a year later warning that high levels of fine quartz sand around fracking operations could lead to silicosis and other lung illnesses. (Read more….)
Phenomenal work by Marcellus Outreach Butler in compiling this partial month-by-month list of Spills, Accidents, and Violations by frackers. The link takes you to reports for 2014 but MOB has plenty for before this year, too. Thank you, MOB!
Excerpt: “Chemical manufacturer DuPont has reported that about 23,000 pounds of a flammable toxic chemical escaped in the building where four of its workers died two weeks ago at a Houston-area plant.” (Read more...)
A ProPublica review of U.S. Department of Labor investigations has found that the oil and gas industry is also rife with this kind of of corporate banditry. Naveena Sadasivam reports:
“In 2012, the DOL began a special enforcement initiative in its Northeast and Southwest regional offices targeting the fracking industry and its supporting industries. As of August this year, the agency has conducted 435 investigations resulting in over $13 million in back wages found due for more than 9,100 workers. ProPublica obtained data for 350 of those cases from the agency. In over a fifth of the investigations, companies in violation paid more than $10,000 in back wages.” (Definitely read more….)
(NB GasVets.org: Although this article was first published 9/11/14, it’s received little attention. For more on worker health and threats to it, see GasVets’ Timeline of Federal Regulations which includes data from “What They Knew in 1988-89, and the 2011 Minority Congressional report which lists 650 fracking chemicals that are known- or potential-carcinogens, If you are a GasVet worker or a resident of “Gasland” who believes you’ve suffered harm from fracking, please participate in Damascus Citizens’ Health and Community Impacts Survey.)
“Some workers at oil and gas sites where fracking occurs are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene, a colorless gas that can cause cancer, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The agency, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends that people limit their benzene exposure to an average of 0.1 of a part per million during their shift. But when NIOSH researchers measured the amount of airborne benzene that oil and gas workers were exposed to when they opened hatches atop tanks at well sites, 15 out of 17 samples were over that amount.
Benzene, a component of crude oil, “is of major concern because it can be acutely toxic to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys at high concentrations,” the study authors wrote. As the CDC explains, benzene interferes with the normal workings of cells.
‘It can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia,” according to the CDC. “Also, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells.’”
“I live in Heaven, but I work in Hell…
My family and I moved away from Alberta last September in order to have a better life. We chose a place that was near my wife’s hometown in New Brunswick. A place where the speed of life is slower and more manageable. Now we find out this area is targeted for oil and gas development.”
Expert: PA Didn’t Address Fracking Health Impacts
Former health secretary says PA has failed to seriously study the potential health impacts of fracking
By Kevin Begos, The Associated Press, July 12, 2014.
Pennsylvania’s former health secretary says the state has failed to seriously study the potential health impacts of one of the nation’s biggest natural gas drilling booms. Dr. Eli Avila also says the state’s current strategy is a disservice to people and even to the industry itself because health officials need to be proactive in protecting the public. “The lack of any action speaks volumes,” said Avila, who is now the public health commissioner for Orange County, New York. “Don’t BS the public. Their health comes first.” (Read more….)
Succinct, easily-understood breakdown of the risks and harms of gas extraction & production with a call that governments and industry heed the many alarms sounded by the medical and scientific professions. When you post it at your website and Facebook pages and hand it out at your events, maybe say something like, “After you’ve read this, please ask who has your back. Fossil fuel companies and the government? Or, doctors and scientists who aren’t being paid by either of them?” (And then encourage individuals, families and communities who’ve been harmed to consider taking DCS’ Health & Community Impacts Survey.)
From the compendium by Concerned Health Professionals of New York: “With increasing urgency, groups of medical professionals and scientists are issuing calls for comprehensive, long-term study of the full range of the potential health and ecosystem effects of drilling and fracking. These appeals underscore the accumulating evidence of harm, point to the major knowledge gaps that remain, and denounce the atmosphere of secrecy and intimidation that continues to impede the progress of scientific inquiry. Health professionals and scientists in the United States and around the world have urged tighter regulation of and in some cases, suspension of unconventional gas and oil extraction activities in order to limit, mitigate or eliminate its serious, adverse public health hazards.”
The nine demands levied against the Dan A Hughes Company by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FLADEP) reflect the fundamental reasons Damascus Citizens for Sustainability created 1) the Natural Gas Health and Community Impacts Survey and 2) a protocol for transmitting individual and community impact data to the (federal) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR):
- DCS and ATSDR recognized that the Agency does not receive enough data from state authorities to initiate Public Health Assessments or to create a federal registry of reported natural gas extraction and production harms and impacts. (Demands # 2, 3, 5, 6, 9)
- Beyond illuminating individual and community health impacts, the Survey asks several questions that establish the nature of residents’ interactions with oversight agencies and the responses received.)
Other of the nine demands might establish,
- proximal cause of contaminations;
- who knew what when and what they did about it;
- whether or not protocols exist to enable reasonable oversight and enforcement to protect the public health and safety and whether or not fraudulent actions were taken to bypass existing oversight and enforcement protocols. (Demands # 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7-9)
Demand #1 seems innocuous but DCS’ review of the Hancock Compressor proposal, for instance, questioned whether or not the pro forma nature of FERC approvals and consequent dismissal of public concerns and comments contravened the National Environmental Policy Act.
(From the ABC coverage…) The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is giving the Dan A. Hughes Company two weeks to comply with nine demands or face penalties.
A letter was issued to the Texas-based oil drilling company from Florida DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, Jr. on Thursday.
The letter outlines steps the company needs to take to restore public confidence in it’s Collier County projects.
The demands were stated as follows:
1. Publish dates and times that Dan A. Hughes will hold three public meetings to discuss and take public comment on your plans for the Collier-Hogan site and future operations in Collier County.
- Confirm whether Hughes took samples of the flowback material that was trucked off the Collier-Hogan site prior to June 23, 2014, when DEP arrived to inspect the site. If samples exist, immediately provide those samples to DEP. If Hughes did not take samples of the flowback material, prior to trucking off-site, provide an explanation as to why and who, specifically at Dan A. Hughes, made the decision not to sample these materials and why DEP was not notified of this action.
- Publicly announce media and public access to your operations to ensure that the previous violations are not ongoing.
- Publicly commit to testify before the County Commission’s July 8 meeting to discuss your current practices and long term plans.
- Provide an explanation of the agreement between Dan A. Hughes and the facility that agreed to accept the flowback material to provide full assurance that this material is being disposed of appropriately to safeguard the public. Also include a copy of the renewed pretreatment permit issued by Miami-Dade County, as the current permit you provided to DEP expired on May 31, 2014.
- Provide the revisions of the groundwater monitoring plan as required by DEP to address the deficiencies previously identified by the Department. This would include a prompt schedule of when Dan A. Hughes will be conducting on-site testing.
- Provide the names and qualifications of the individuals at Dan A. Hughes who are responsible for implementing the requirements of this Consent Order and ensuring compliance on-site. We are aware that you have released the environmental compliance consultant and project engineer who were working with DEP on the implementation of the Consent Order, and we ask that you provide an explanation for the release of these individuals. It is important that we have the information necessary to determine the expertise of those employed by Dan A. Hughes to protect the public.
- Provide the name of your recommended independent third-party expert that will conduct the study under the Consent Order. The Consent Order required Dan A. Hughes to provide a third-party expert acceptable to DEP and a scope of work within 60 days, which was June 7, 2014. The independent third-party expert you initially proposed was rejected by DEP because, as a prior contractor for Dan A. Hughes, that company (Stantec) had a clear conflict of interest. The independence of the third-party expert is critical to ensure unbiased information.
- The Company must provide every 10 days a status report as to the utilization of its Spill Prevention and Cleanup Plan to ensure that proper safety mechanisms are in place. Aerial photographs and on the ground assessments have exposed oil sheen on the ground that are allegedly the result of Hughes’ techniques of spraying oil into truck tanks. It is important to know whether or not this activity is part of the Spill Prevention and Cleanup Plan.
The letter states that the stipulations are non-negotiable. The Dan A. Hughes Company has until July 15 to complete the demands.
For background on Dan A. Hughes in Collier County, Florida, you can begin here.