All Hail Marcellus Shale

Robert Donnan ©2009

Enter the darkness, in the ground,
Frack it, attack it, damn that sound!
Gas to be drilled, big money found,
Spewing secret chemicals all around.

Steal the water, from the fish,
Pump it, pipe it, spot the dish.
Secret formula? Aw tish-tish,
Resolve it later, don’t we wish!

Will it all, to your kids’ grandkid,
Don’t drink the water, sue pro quid.
We got ours, now yinz got yours,
Fracking ground, pumped full of horrors!

Marcellus money, came and went,
Our mad gas rush, screamed ‘Hellbent!’
Royalty checks gone, can’t pay the rent,
Environment scarred, beyond Repent.

We still live here, sick descendants say,
What were you thinking, damn that play!
Your spills and radium, taint our hay,
You stole from us, to claim your day.

All Hail, Marcellus Shale!
Big business won, without fail.
Descendants looking, in the mail,
Royalty checks gone, water frail.

This poem was written back in 2009, when the Marcellus Shale drilling and fracking ‘play’ was beginning to expand in the Pittsburgh tri-state area. Believe it or not, frackers were actually allowed to dump their gas production wastewater at Public Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) along the Monongahela River. These facilities were never designed to handle this sort of salty industrial waste, that included secret frac chemicals (protected under ‘Proprietary’ chemical labels without CAS numbers) and water soluble, radioactive Radium 228 (Ra228), as well as many other toxins.

Dumping fracking waste, that underwent slight processing before going into the Monogahela River, at the McKeesport water treatment plant. They were also dumping at the Clairton POTW.

The POTWs enjoyed the added 5-cents per gallon income from tankers that hauled around 4,000 gallons each ($200). During that same period of time, the Pittsburgh region was experiencing a drought, and river levels were lower than usual. By adding all these high-TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) liquids to the waste stream during low flow, one reporter aptly referred to river water sourced for public consumption as “chunky.” Dishes came out of dishwashers spotted. Our water supplier for the South Hills of Pittsburgh was using chlorine to disinfect drinking water at that time, and the combination of high-TDS water with chlorine, pushed their total trihalomethane levels over the EPA limit.

Trihalomethanes include chloroform, so part of the increased risk to consumers, is inhalation during a hot shower. Over subsequent years, most of that ‘river dumping’ at POTWs ended and our water supplier switched to using chloramine instead of straight chlorine. That switch brings about a new set of safety requirements for consumers who use that chloraminated water, and also forces the water company to perform a “chlorine burn” once a year, where the entire water system is super-chlorinated to eliminate any lingering pathogens the chloramine may have missed, since it’s not as effective a water disinfection treatment.

Thanks to Ben Stout, formerly of Wheeling Jesuit University, and the West Virginia DEP, we have this special look at what made up some loads of this toxic wastewater:

Choose carefully on Election Day, since far too many candidates are “FULL FRAC AHEAD!” Our Constitutional right of “clean air and pure water” in the Pennsylvania Constitution has been getting ignored during the Marcellus Shale gas rush, and we need to change that. Time to take off the blinders!

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