Tag Archives: colorado

Science Lags as Health Problems Emerge near Gas Fields

Source : Propublica

On a summer evening in June 2005, Susan Wallace-Babb went out into a neighbor’s field near her ranch in Western Colorado to close an irrigation ditch. She parked down the rutted double-track, stepped out of her truck into the low-slung sun, took a deep breath and collapsed, unconscious.

A natural gas well and a pair of fuel storage tanks sat less than a half-mile away. Later, after Wallace-Babb came to and sought answers, a sheriff’s deputy told her that a tank full of gas condensate—liquid hydrocarbons gathered from the production process—had overflowed into another tank. The fumes must have drifted toward the field where she was working, he suggested.The next morning Wallace-Babb was so sick she could barely move. She vomited uncontrollably and suffered explosive diarrhea. A searing pain shot up her thigh. Within days she developed burning rashes that covered her exposed skin, then lesions. As weeks passed, anytime she went outdoors, her symptoms worsened. Wallace-Babb’s doctor began to suspect she had been poisoned.

“I took to wearing a respirator and swim goggles outside to tend to my animals,” Wallace-Babb said. “I closed up my house and got an air conditioner that would just recycle the air and not let any fresh air in.”

Wallace-Babb’s symptoms mirror those reported by a handful of others living near her ranch in Parachute, Colo., and by dozens of residents of communities across the country that have seen the most extensive natural gas drilling. Hydraulic fracturing, along with other processes used to drill wells, generates emissions and millions of gallons of hazardous waste that are dumped into open-air pits. The pits have been shown to leak into groundwater and also give off chemical emissions as the fluids evaporate. Residents’ most common complaints are respiratory infections, headaches, neurological impairment, nausea and skin rashes. More rarely, they have reported more serious effects, from miscarriages and tumors to benzene poisoning and cancer.

ProPublica examined government environmental reports and private lawsuits and interviewed scores of residents, physicians and toxicologists in four states—Colorado, Texas, Wyoming and Pennsylvania—that are drilling hot spots. Our review showed that cases like Wallace-Babb’s go back a decade in parts of Colorado and Wyoming, where drilling has taken place for years. They are just beginning to emerge in Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus Shale drilling boom began in earnest in 2008.

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Colorado Family Sues Oil and Gas Drilling Firms

Source:  The Wall Street Journal | Thursday, March 24, 2011

Associated Press

DENVER — A western Colorado family has filed a lawsuit saying that negligence by oil and gas drilling companies contaminated their drinking water and air and forced them from their home.

Beth and Bill Strudley and their sons, ages 11 and 13, moved in 2005 outside Silt but said they started living in Glenwood Springs this year to escape the effects of work by Antero Resources Corp. and subcontractors Frontier Drilling and Calfrac Well Services. The Strudleys still own the home outside Silt. Their lawsuit in Denver District Court accuses all three firms of negligence.

Denver-based Antero said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Calfrac had no immediate comment, and a phone message for Frontier Drilling wasn’t returned.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates oil and gas development, has said it has found no scientific data that the water quality in the family’s well was contaminated by drilling, but the Strudleys said they have conducted their own tests. They and their lawyers declined to disclose the results Thursday, saying only that they were “abnormal.”

The family said they started getting sick after drilling started within a mile of their home in August. They wouldn’t discuss details at a news conference Thursday, but Beth Strudley, 46, told The Post Independent of Glenwood Springs in January that they have suffered rashes and nosebleeds.

Bill Strudley, 50, said Thursday he still feels ill whenever he returns to the Silt-area home to retrieve belongings.

Residents in the Battlement Mesa community also have complained of odors that have caused nausea, dizziness, coughing and burning eyes that they say are because of Antero’s operations.

The Strudleys are represented in part by a law firm that has filed a suit alleging drilling by the Anschutz Exploration Corp. in New York contaminated the drinking water of nine families. Denver-based Anschutz Exploration has called the lawsuit “an act of financial extortion” by some lawyers trying to enrich themselves.

The Strudleys are seeking damages to cover health monitoring and medical costs.

“Gas drillers have got to be made to have safe drilling operations for the environment, for humans, for animal life,” said Marc Bern, one of their attorneys. “Individuals drilling in this area care about one thing: profits. Profits over safety.”

The family does not own the rights to minerals beneath their property. Beth Strudley said before they bought their home, she asked the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission whether the area could be drilled. She said she was told a company had done tests and found it would be economically difficult.

…Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

A thorough article from the NY Times on contaminated water (from drilling) in public water sources.
Quoting from the article:

“…Dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.”

“With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.”

“The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle”

“…Radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.”

“Drillers trucked at least half of this waste to public sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania in 2008 and 2009, according to state officials. Some of it has been sent to other states, including New York and West Virginia.”

“Gas has seeped into underground drinking-water supplies in at least five states, including Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia, and residents blamed natural-gas drilling.

Air pollution caused by natural-gas drilling is a growing threat, too. Wyoming, for example, failed in 2009 to meet federal standards for air quality for the first time in its history partly because of the fumes containing benzene and toluene from roughly 27,000 wells, the vast majority drilled in the past five years.”

“In Texas, which now has about 93,000 natural-gas wells, up from around 58,000 a dozen years ago, a hospital system in six counties with some of the heaviest drilling said in 2010 that it found a 25 percent asthma rate for young children, more than three times the state rate of about 7 percent.”

“Smelling like raw sewage mixed with gasoline, drilling-waste pits, some as large as a football field, sit close to homes.”

“More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells over the past three years, far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water — enough to cover Manhattan in three inches — was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic materials in drilling waste.”

“Of more than 179 wells producing wastewater with high levels of radiation, at least 116 reported levels of radium or other radioactive materials 100 times as high as the levels set by federal drinking-water standards. At least 15 wells produced wastewater carrying more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable.”

“A confidential industry study from 1990, conducted for the American Petroleum Institute, concluded that “using conservative assumptions,” radium in drilling wastewater dumped off the Louisiana coast posed “potentially significant risks” of cancer for people who eat fish from those waters regularly.”

EPA Hearing on Gas Drilling Draws Big Crowd

Source : Almanac.net

By Amy Philips Haller for the Almanac : writer@thealmanac.net

It was standing room only at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Cecil Township as citizens voiced their opinions about the hydraulic fracturing process used by the natural-gas drilling industry.

About 1,400 people attended the July 22 meeting to hear more about the process used by gas companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which covers Southwestern Pennsylvania and extends from West Virginia as far as New York.

The EPA was mandated by Congress this year to study hydraulic fracturing. Meetings were held in Texas, Colorado and Cecil Township. The one at the Hilton Garden Inn, Southpointe was the third hearing with the final one to be held Aug. 12 in Binghamton, N.Y. The study is expected to be completed by late 2012.

After EPA panel members explained the details behind the study, the public was given a chance to testify. More than 130 people were registered to speak. Each person had two minutes to make their statement. Police officers were on hand if there was an unruly conduct.

Wearing a numbered wrist band, one by one citizens took the microphone.

Robert Donnan of Peters Township, who noted he was a Vietnam veteran, started with a question: ‘Is Pennsylvania worth fighting for? For 235 years my family always said, ‘yes.’”

Concerned about the Marcellus Shale drilling, he continued: “Battle lines are drawn. This fight is for our lives and for our children.”

He mentioned Agent Orange. “My comrades were ignored when they got sick. 20 years after our war, the National Academy of Science finally did a health study. My comrades were right, many were dead right….” The room filled with applause when he finished, “They are poisoning the state we love.”

One person after another expressed concerns for drinking water. Some claimed their wells were poisoned with fracking chemicals. One woman, West Virginia resident Marilyn Hunter, stated, “We are running out of time. An economic war is being waged against the US. Our rights are being violated by these fracking corporations. Canonsburg is a historic site for nuclear contamination. Let us make this meeting a historic victory for human rights. We are fighting for our lives.”

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EPA to Hold Four Public Meetings on Fracking

Source : EPA.gov

Release date: 06/18/2010

(New York, N.Y.) : The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting four public information meetings on the proposed study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing is a process that drills vertical and horizontal cracks underground that help withdraw gas or oil from coalbeds, shale and other geological formations. By pumping fracturing fluids (water and chemical additives) and sands into rock formations, fractures are created in the formation from which natural gas or oil can be more easily extracted. The meetings will provide public information about the proposed study scope and design. EPA will solicit public comments on the draft study plan.

The public meetings will be held on:

  • July 8 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. CDT at the Hilton Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas

  • July 13 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. MDT at the Marriot Tech Center’s Rocky Mountain Events Center in Denver, Colo.

  • July 22 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT at the Hilton Garden Inn in Canonsburg, Pa.

  • August 12 at the Anderson Performing Arts Center at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. for 3 sessions – 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT

Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future and hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing this vital resource. However, serious concerns have been raised about hydraulic fracturing’s potential impact on drinking water, human health and the environment. To address these concerns, EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water.

To support the initial planning phase and guide the development of the study plan, the agency sought suggestions and comments from the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB)—an independent, external federal advisory committee. The agency will use this advice and extensive stakeholder input to guide the design of the study.

Stakeholders are requested to pre-register for the meetings at least 72 hours before each meeting.

More information on the meetings: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/wells_hydrofrac.html