Barium, Chloride and Strontium, Oh My!

A study published in SCIENCE last week is said to be the first linking surface water contamination to fracking, the layman’s term for hydraulic fracturing, which is used to produce oil and gas from shale, like the Marcellus Shale which underlies a large portion of western and northeastern Pennsylvania. In yesterday’s blog “America’s Radioactive Secret” we learned that Marcellus Shale has extremely high levels of water-soluble Radium 226, so this new study is yet another concern for the water we use for drinking, cooking and bathing.

Below is a 2009 photo showing shale gas waste liquids being hauled into a sewage plant along the Monongahela River upstream from Pittsburgh!

We’ve seen many cases over the past decades, where water sources contaminated by nearby fracking were replaced with bottled water, and trucked-in water to fill water buffalos, while farmers were still left to shower and bathe in contaminated water. Ironically, my takeaway from this new study, points to the fact that using surface water from rivers may only reduce their exposure to certain fracking pollutants when it comes to “replacement water.” There have been additional tapwater issues in the Pittsburgh region with disinfection by products, or DBP’s like trihalomethanes since fracking came to town. (Jan 15, 2020 EU bladder cancer study)

Eliza Griswold carefully detailed water contamination issues in our Washington County, while writing her Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America.” Below left, we see a water buffalo outside of that family’s home, as well as another water buffalo outside the home of that family’s neighbor.

Perhaps most telling of all is this photo I took 10-years ago near fracking, in and around Cross Creek County Park, which points to such a sad anomaly, apparently replacing spring water with trucked-in replacement water. Here we see a water buffalo parked next to an old springhouse. The puffy wrapper is an insulation wrap, to help prevent the water from freezing during the winter. The second image of all the gas well laterals already present 7-years ago, is courtesy of Professor John Stolz and his graduate students at Duquesne University:

A lady living further down the road from this springhouse, told me she had a perfectly healthy horse die, during drilling and fracking activities upstream from her. Probably the least reported part of the entire Marcellus Shale drilling saga is how much livestock has died, or had serious birthing issues, during nearby gas production activities. As one farmer friend put it:

“First it will be the cattle, then it will be us.”

Prophetically, he died a few years later from a lightning-fast glioblastoma. On the left we see the hazy pupil of one of his many stillborn calves, while on the right, another southwestern Pennsylvania farmer lost multiple cattle from suspected illegal “midnight dumping” of produced water on a country road nearby. Meantime, our Pennsylvania state legislature wants to permit use of this liquid for road de-icing, all across the Commonwealth!

Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald were the first researchers to systematically document ill health in livestock, pets, and people living near fracking drill sites back in 2012. “The authors meet children with elevated arsenic levels, adults experiencing dramatic weight loss, and whole families suffering from “shale gas syndrome” (their name for the combination of burning eyes, sore throat, headaches, nosebleeds, vomiting, diarrhea, and skin rashes often experienced by the people in their case studies). Some residents cannot enter their homes without becoming seriously ill and others have lost their animal breeding or farming-based livelihoods.” Source
Their book, “THE REAL COST OF FRACKING – How America’s Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets, and Food” was published in 2014.

Imagine watering your cattle with a water buffalo like this farmer, who lost three good water sources to drilling and fracking activities:

Natural gas, or “unnatural gas” as fractivists prefer to call it, has already edged-out coal to gain a 40-percent share of electricity generation capacity on the regional PJM grid. Meantime, fossil fuel advocates and the GOP dominated Pennsylvania legislature, are doing all they can to point out the speck in the eye of renewable energy, like solar and wind, while having a log in their own eye.


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