LANDMARK LAWSUIT: Latkanich v Chevron, EQT, PFAS Defendants

Lawsuit filed October 28, 2022 in Washington County, Pennsylvania

Washington County Courthouse

Latkanich v. Chevron et al

PFAS: The latest toxic concern for those near fracking

By Kristina Marusic | Environmental Health News | August 4, 2022

For more than a decade, Bryan Latkanich has discussed his concerns about fracking chemicals contaminating the water and air near his home with anyone who would listen. Latkanich is a resident of Washington County, Pennsylvania, one of the state’s most heavily fracked regions.

In 2020, an Environmental Health News investigation found evidence that Latkanich and his son Ryan had been exposed to harmful chemicals like benzene, toluene and styrene. Now, researchers have uncovered more harmful substances in Latkanich’s tap water —“forever chemicals.”

Last year it was revealed that these chemicals, collectively referred to as PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances), have been used in U.S. oil and gas wells for decades. As far as the experts we spoke with know, this is the first time PFAS that may be linked to fracking have been detected in household drinking water.

Latkanich’s drinking water has been plagued with problems since two fracking wells were drilled in his backyard in 2011 and 2012. The wells were plugged in 2020.

MORE: https://www.ehn.org/pfas-fracking-in-drinking-water-2657776204/pfas-pennsylvania

Source: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

“I’m wondering what this stuff does to your joints and your heart, and how it affects everything else I’m feeling. My kidneys are already shot. I just want these people to stop. They gotta stop poisoning people. What’s scary is that they didn’t just find one, they found a bunch of PFAS.”

Bryan Latkanich
UPDATE: WTAE-TV Investigative Report 11-7-22:

Source: https://www.wtae.com/article/washington-county-fracking-forever-chemicals-pfas-water/41890251

Federal Register Notice on Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisories for Four Perfluoroalkyl Substances – June 21, 2022:

“People on the front-lines of PFAS contamination have suffered for far too long. That’s why EPA is taking aggressive action as part of a whole-of-government approach to prevent these chemicals from entering the environment and to help protect concerned families from this pervasive challenge.”

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan – PRESS RELEASE jUNE 15, 2022
Water tests detected 7 compounds in one or more of the water samples from Latkanich’s home. The levels of PFOA and PFOS detected in Latkanich’s water were 280 times higher and 379 times higher, respectively, than the new federal thresholds:
  • PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid)
  • PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid)
  • PFHpA (Perfluoroheptanoic acid)
  • PFNA (Perfluorononanoic acid)
  • PFDA (Perfluorodecanoic acid)
  • PFDS (Perfluorodecanesulfonic acid)
  • PFHxS (Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid)
Immunotoxicity Associated with Exposure to Perfluorooctanoic Acid or Perfluorooctane Sulfonate:

“It’s very difficult to conduct scientifically rigorous tests on an industry that operates with so much secrecy. Considering how toxic and persistent these chemicals are, and the evidence that they have been used in oil and gas extraction for decades, it’s critical for state regulators to start looking for these contaminants in people’s drinking water near oil and gas sites.”

Dusty Horwitt, consultant with Physicians for Social Responsibility

“We should be thinking about how to enable more widespread testing of well water throughout Pennsylvania to figure out the potential scale of this problem. We know about the health impacts for some of these individual compounds, but scientists are just starting to come up with an understanding of how these add up in the body.”

Carla Ng, researcher who studies PFAS at the University of Pittsburgh and supervised Latkanich’s water tests

MORE:

GROUP FINDS PFAS ‘FOREVER’ CHEMICALS USED IN OHIO OIL AND GAS WELLS
A non-profit research group has found the oil and gas industry in Ohio has used PFAS, known as “forever” chemicals, in at least 101 oil and gas wells since 2013. Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released a report on Thursday and said that the state’s disclosure rules prevent the public from knowing how widely PFAS have been used. The group analyzed a database where the oil and gas industry self-reports chemical usage, and found PFAS was used in wells in eight Ohio counties: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, and Washington.

How Colorado is preventing PFAS contamination from the oil and gas industry
In June, Colorado became the first state to ban the use of PFAS during oil and gas extraction — and now, in light of recent research finding the potential for widespread contamination, some are calling for a similar ban in Pennsylvania. Last year it was revealed that PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a group of more than 9,000 chemicals, have been used in oil and gas wells for decades. The chemicals, which are water- and grease-repellent, are sometimes used in fracking fluid to make the chemical mixture more stable and efficient in flushing oil and gas out of the ground at high pressure. PFAS may also be used during initial drilling and other phases of oil and gas extraction — not just fracking.

E.P.A. Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking a Decade Ago, New Files Show
The E.P.A. in 2011 approved the use of these chemicals, used to ease the flow of oil from the ground, despite the agency’s own grave concerns about their toxicity, according to the documents, which were reviewed by The New York Times. The E.P.A.’s approval of the three chemicals wasn’t previously publicly known. For fracking to work, the energy industry has an appetite for chemicals that, when pumped underground at high pressure, can coax oil out of the ground most efficiently. In 2008, a scientific paper published in an oil-industry journal and led by a DuPont researcher referred to the “exceptional” water-repelling and other characteristics of types of chemicals that include PFAS, and called the chemicals an “emerging technology” that showed promise for use in oil and gas extraction. The E.P.A. documents describing the chemicals approved in 2011 date from the Obama administration and are heavily redacted because the agency allows companies to invoke trade-secret claims to keep basic information on new chemicals from public release. Even the name of the company that applied for approval is redacted, and the records give only a generic name for the chemicals: fluorinated acrylic alkylamino copolymer. The FracFocus database shows that about 120 companies used PFAS — or chemicals that can break down into PFAS, the most common of which was “nonionic fluorosurfactant” and various misspellings — in more than 1,000 wells between 2012 and 2020 in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Because not all states require companies to report chemicals to the database, the number of wells could be higher.

PFAS detected in Susquehanna as part of nationwide testing
The closest example of excessive levels was found in samples collected by Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Ted Evgeniadis, along Kreutz Creek (a tributary to the Susquehanna River) just above and below the company Modern Landfill. The results were the worst overall among all samples collected by Waterkeepers across the country, finding levels of PFOS at 374.3 ppt and PFOA at 847 ppt in addition to 25 other PFAS compounds at very high levels.

FRACTURED: https://www.ehn.org/fractured-series-on-fracking-pollution-2650624600.html

PFAS contamination likely at 58,000 sites in US: Study
The PFAS Project Lab research team published in mid-October its findings. Of the 57,412 sites presumed to be contaminated with PFAS in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., 9,145 are industrial facilities, 4,255 are wastewater treatment plants, 3,493 are current or former military sites, and 519 are major airports. PFAS exposure has been associated with increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, decreased antibody response to vaccines in children, decreased fertility in women, increased risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension and/or pre-eclampsia, kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, chronic kidney disease, elevated uric acid, hyperuricemia, and gout Liver damage, immune system disruption, and adverse developmental outcomes, including small decrease in birth weight and altered mammary gland development, according to the lab.

EPA to consider expanded list of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ for regulatory plans
The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA every five years to propose contaminants that could be regulated under what’s known as the Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List — or, CCL. The agency must take action on at least five of the listed contaminants after a review process. This year’s list, published Wednesday, includes an expansion of the kinds of PFAS being considered. The announcement comes a year after the EPA released a “roadmap” to address PFAS contamination. Listing a contaminant on the EPA’s CCL doesn’t necessarily result in regulation. In 2009, two types of PFAS contaminants — PFOA and PFOS — were listed, but no regulatory action has been taken. The EPA already sets a federal health advisory level for PFAS in drinking water, however it is non-enforceable. But the agency has recently taken a stronger stance. In June, the EPA reduced the advisory level from 70 parts per trillion to almost zero parts per trillion, after announcing the compounds are more dangerous than previously thought. The agency says it will propose the first nationwide drinking water standards for PFAS by the end of this year.

Resources about PFAS, ‘forever chemicals’
Washington state Department of Health: About PFAS
Environmental Protection Agency: Understanding risks of PFAS
Food and Drug Administration: Q&A on PFAS in food
Environmental Working Group: Guide to avoiding PFAS
Toxic Free Future: Quick guide to PFAS
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: Health effects and resources

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