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‘Diarrhea water’

Posted by feww on March 13, 2009

In Dimock, Pennsylvania, drilling for natural gas has clouded the drinking water, sickened people and animals and made their wells flammable. —Report

A glass of water taken from a residential well after the start of natural gas drilling in Dimock, Pennsylvania, March 7, 2009. Dimock is one of hundreds of sites in Pennsylvania where energy companies are now racing to tap the massive Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. But some residents say the drilling has clouded their drinking water, sickened people and animals and made their wells flammable. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer. Image may be subject to copyright.

The following is adapted from a report by Reuters

What people say about the Dimock drilling for Marcellus Shale natural gas

Pat Farnelli whose  children had persistent diarrhea and vomiting  said:  “I was getting excruciating stomach cramps after drinking the water … It felt like an appendicitis attack.”

Geologists :  Marcellus Shale natural gas could potentially provide total U.S. natural gas needs for at least a decade, possibly more.

Observers: What the problem then?

Experts: Oh, the gas cannot be extracted easily because it’s encapsulated  deep inside layers of rock; you need a cocktail of highly toxic chemicals mixed with sand and fluids to drill the rocks [see below for “fracking.”]

Dimock residents: The drilling has clouded our drinking water, sickened our kids and animals and made our wells flammable.”

Energy Industry spokesperson:  The groundwater is safeguarded meticulously. The chemicals used are heavily diluted and pose no health threat.

Residents: What chemicals are you using?

Energy companies: Sorry, that information is proprietary, we can’t disclose what chemicals we use because other companies might copy our work.

Residents: How can we test our drinking waters, if we don’t know what to look for?

Cabot Oil & Gas spokesman Kenneth Komoroski [Cabot has drilled about 30 wells since 2006, 20 of them just last year, Reuters reported]: It is impossible for the drilling to contaminate the groundwater,  how could it I ask you!

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell speaking to Reuters: The state is careful in granting drilling permits. “We are very scrupulous about whether it will have an effect on the groundwater.” It’s safe, it’s safe … I say!

Mark Carmon an official with the Department of Environmental Protection: [they say they tested well water in Dimock houses in February] “We have not seen anything that would be of concern.”

A dozen local interviewed by Reuters: We draw water from a well sunk into an aquifer; two gas wells are within a few hundred yards (meters) of our houses.

Damascus Citizens for Sustainability [a Pennsylvania group opposed to drilling] :  Toxic chemicals have leaked into groundwater at hundreds of natural gas drilling sites in Colorado and New Mexico. How could Pennsylvania be an exception?

Ron and Jean Carter: We were alarmed when the water supply to our trailer home suddenly started to taste and smell foul after Cabot had started drilling 180m away. To protect our grandchild living with us, we managed to scrape together $6,500 for a water purification system.

“It was kind of funny that the water was good in July but after they drilled, it wasn’t,” said Ron Carter.

Tim and Debbie Maye, a truck driver and post office worker: We have three teenage children, and have been drinking and cooking with only bottled water since our well water turned brown in November 2008, shortly after Cabot started drilling.

But we can’t afford bottled water for our animals. Our cats have been losing fur  projectile vomiting because of the contaminated water.  One of  our three horses is also  losing its hair. When I go out to give water to them, “I tell my husband, ‘I’m going out to poison the horses.'”

Methane in the Water

Another byproduct of the drilling in Dimock is methane which has been released into the water supply, which the state regulators and Cabot have  acknowledged.

Local homeowners: We can ignite our well water. Recently, a gas buildup blew the large concrete cap off a well.

Norma Fiorentino, 66, a resident: “The well was capped with six to eight inches of concrete. …  The explosion broke it into three big pieces and blew a huge hole in the ground.”

Hydraulic fracturing [“fracking”]

Environmental groups: Energy companies use a method called  Hydraulic fracturing [aka, hydrofracturing, or fracing pronounced “fracking”] to create fractures  from a borehole al the way down to rock formations by  injecting a toxic mix of chemicals together with water and sand deep into the rock to release the natural gas which is trapped there.

Komoroski, the Cabot spokesman: Of course the “fracking” chemicals are dangerous. But they are only dangerous  in concentrated form. Here [in Pennsylvania,] we use them heavily diluted in the injection fluid.  Further, we inject them into depths of 1,700 to 2,700m (5,000 to 8,000 ft)— well below the normal depth aquifers at 70 to 170m (100 to 500 ft)—and we pump them into the ground inside several layers of steel and concrete, preventing any discharge at levels that could contaminate the groundwater.

FEWW Moderators: Why did the water turn brown, people and animals that drank the water got violently ill, cats lost their fur and horses their hair just after you started fracking? And what say you about the exploding well caps? Please respond.

[This space is reserved for Komoroski‘s reply!]

Komoroski: The Marcellus Shale Committee, a statewide group of energy companies will publish a report on the chemicals that are being injected into the ground.

The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, a Colorado research group: of the 201 “fracking chemicals” we have found in the groundwater about 188 could potentially harm skin, eyes, and sensory organs;  100 could damage the brain and nervous system, and 59 may cause cancer.

Retired schoolteacher Victoria Switzer and her husband, Jimmy: We spent five years building our dream home [nestled on an idyllic wooded hillside,] now we have to share the rural setting with a gas well just a few hundred meters away. How could we fight the wealthy energy companies? Cabot, for one, posted annual revenues of about $1 billion in 2008.

Victoria Switzer: “They are big and we are small and they count on that.” 

Posted in Cabot Oil & Gas, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, doorstep drilling, Gov. Ed Rendell | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »