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Desperate to Stop Fracking (A Personal Story)
By Marilyn K. Hunt and Robert N. Hunt (Research scientist)
August 05, 2012
Rt. 89, Wetzel County, West Virginia. One of many flares causing noise, pollution, and waste.
With people sick and dying in this area from water contamination by frack drilling companies, and with the state DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) not willing to tell the truth on the issue, we have taken on this battle to save our 70 acre farm and small mission and to warn others before it is too late. The loss and cost in human health and destroyed water, air, and land resources continues and we are running out of time. Gas and particulate chemicals shower the surrounding area as cheap flares cause health damage and people fear the continuous danger of explosions. We are working hard to tell what has happened so others will not suffer. And, we must look at public health as a protective environmental necessity.We are part of the crisis in human rights in America.
Drilling Companies First Find Their Target
Our rural county in West Virginia became a center of contamination and the negative social effects of frack gas drilling. Our area was chosen as are all others areas for drilling with a specific agenda that encourages drilling company territorial expansion using what is called their Slide show #40 criteria.
They first look at whether the area is “litigious” or not, has regulatory rules (onerous or workable) and at the political clout of various factions! (1) So, basically the ideal area is poor, people cannot obtain legal help, and there are collaborative entities ready to help the outsiders take over as the people do not understand the problems that will follow due to emissions and leaking dumps. Coal strip mining companies have used the same type of ideas to find locations and discredit opposition through denial of the reported problems which include the health impacts of rising rates of cancers. The standard pattern of epidemiological revelation is denied to poor communities with cases never being examined.
The slide show #40 for landsmen, company employees, and owners is a training session in how to control and does not consider the rights of the families in any way. They know that without legal help communities cannot control what moves in and out of the area. With the choice of two communities, one with lawyers, college professors, and wealthy business owners, and one with retired people, blue collar workers, and small farms, with a declining economy, the second will be chosen as meeting the slide #40 description.
Schmoozing the Community
The next phase is the movement of people into the community to gain influence. Ads are purchased in the local news media andonly favorable stories begin to appear. Free dinners are given at local restaurants with favorable presentations detailing the progress and positives of the current area gas sites. No mention is made of the contamination and health problems but emphasis is put on the discussion of royalty checks and lease bonuses. Public meetings were convened at local Volunteer Fire Departments in West Virginia and people were told “only water and sand and some salt would be injected under force into the deep wells, having no influence on surface waters.”
Their Convoys Hit Town
Macedonia Ridge in Wetzel County, WV, 2010. Heavy trucks destroyed roads,
even emergency travel was impossible.
Suddenly one day, convoys began to arrive with incredible loads of machinery and the roads literally fell apart. Then the streams of tankers, flat-bed trucks of bales of dry chemicals and tanks of liquid chemicals were crowding the roads. Workers ended up being seriously injured and killed, shaken ambulance personnel tried to describe the scenes where no OSHA regulations had been enforced. Many workers who were illegal aliens could not speak English yet were handling the toxic chemicals. My husband and I hired a lawyer and continued to defend our property rights. Many other area residents just gave in as they were told that "their property would be drilled anyway and this was their chance to get the most money.”
Chesapeake Energy filed a lawsuit against us to force us to sign. We countersued and the suit was promptly dropped. The sites around our 70 acre farm have slipped, leaked, and had explosions to the extent that we had to buy respirators. We were able to obtain the help of Region 3 EPA criminal investigators who have found multiple violations. Entire mountainsides have collapsed. The worst problem is the contamination and the lack of public health response. “For Sale” signs are continuing to go up with families fleeing and willing to let their homes go into foreclosure. We have lab reports and hundreds of photos of the chemicals coming in on trucks. The former lumber yard on Rt. 2 became a storage area for incredible amounts of chemicals until a reporter came from Washington, DC then all the chemicals were moved away from sight.
Health Is a Human Right
The health and welfare rights of entire communities have been abrogated by companies that are manipulative and secretive in all stages of operation and activities. While desperate families begged for help in Pennsylvania, Range Energy and other companies spent large amounts of money denying drilling contamination. Public relations and large contributions have been used by the drilling industry to avoid regulation and protective legislation. Denied equal rights and protection under the law, victim families are faced with the insult of denial added to injury and destruction. Implementation of exemption for gas drilling from the Clean Water Act in 2004 set a precedent for other evasions. Scientists warned that this was not scientifically sound. Wes Wilson, a career scientist at EPA carefully documented the objections. The warnings were suppressed. Dr. Conrad Volz, a faculty member of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health’s Center For Healthy Environment testified before Congress April 12th, 2011 and a month later he testified before the Marcellus Shale Commission in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was able to report the extent and the identity of the contaminants and the situation of many families. He resigned his position rather than suppress his findings. One of the important facts that he reported was that the industry continued to inject diesel fuel into the wells despite industry denial. Those who sought to discredit Dr.Volz cited a University of Texas study authored by Charles “Chip” Groat. Breaking news now reveals that Mr. Groat failed to disclose his relationship to Plains, a drilling company of which he is a paid board member and stockholder. His sizeable financial stake in the drilling industry has cast a new light on the research at the University of Texas Energy Center which claimed there was absolutely no proof of any contamination of water by frack drilling.
We are seeing an emerging pattern of suppression and denial of information vital to public health. First, the harm of allowing the contamination to occur was permitted. Next, the application of reasonable public health response failed also. “Epidemiology is the study of the incidence, prevalence, source, and causes of disease in populations and is the basis of public health practice.” (2) Although serious health problems were being reported to doctors, health departments, news reporters, and political representatives, no one was following basic procedures of sample testing and coordination of cluster cases or coordinating the time of drilling in relation to the discovery of contaminants.
Representatives from companies including Range and Andarko were quoted as reporting the need to hire ex-military psy-ops agents to deal with “insurgents”, meaning actually the ordinary families suffering from contamination who were struggling to make their situation public. When federal response resulted in hearings for a Frack Act, on June 4, 2009, testimony was given before Congress. The testimony of Scott Kell, Deputy Director of ODNR and President of The Ground Water Protection Council is available as part of the public record. He testified that there was no need for the federal regulation , that states could and were taking care of this and that other state regulators to belong on his Council. It was only after the failure of passage of the Frack Act that investigators discovered that the Ground Water Protection Council was a drilling company funded organization.
Our Mission Continues
Once again, we have an opportunity to obtain federal protection for communities. Families have traveled to Washington, D.C. July 28, 2012 from many organizations and states asking for a moratorium on frack drilling. At the same time, the Senate has held hearings before the Joint Committee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health seeking passage of S. 87, Oversight of EPA Authorities and Actions to Control Exposures to Toxic Chemicals. This is a very significant effort to protect human life from exploitative businesses. It would place the burden of proof of safety on the corporations rather than the current situation where victims must try to prove harm. Many victims of contamination are dying before cases go to court as civil suits.
Our personal experience and growing collection of contaminated water reports formed the basis of our testimony before the Department of Energy Regional Hearing panel on June 30th, 2011 in Washington, Pennsylvania. Some aspects of this hearing are very troubling including the uniformly dressed, bussed in gas supporters who laughed when victims explained the cancers and other health problems their families had experienced. Supporters did not offer any factual information except to praise what they perceived as economic advantages and no effort was made to calculate the cost in human health and destroyed water, air, and land resources. We stated “We are running out of time” and also urged investigation of methods and activities which the R.I.C.O. statutes cover.
It is obvious that all of this activity is inter-linked, coordinated, and the disruption of enforcement is deliberate. The contamination is spreading through the water systems and food chain. Flaring puts the same chemicals found in the water samples into the air. There are now many volunteer organizations doing investigative research of both problems - contamination and corruption. The group of mothers who worked with scientist volunteers brought their samples to a corporate Volatile Organic Chemical lab which had the permissionto do these screening samples. Everyone thought in 2009 that once the Benzene to Xylene was identified the government would take over. The result of the release to think tanks and colleges and to Congress of the findings resulted in efforts to force the scientists not to reveal the results or testify. This has had a major impact on my husband as he refused to be silent. My husband was told by his employer, Bayer,that he could not reveal the volunteer lab results so he quit.
Dr. Colborn, of TEDX has done extensive research of Western States and has data and explanations a www.endocrinedisruption.com. She not only lists the chemicals but explains the effect they have on humans. This work is depending on citizens who are willing to learn for themselves what is in their water, air and soil and to relentlessly insist on regulation and real testing especially when evidence of illness and changes in the water, air, and soil cause suspicion of chemical contamination. Damacus Citizens for Sustainability has videos that are uplifting such as artist Allen Rubin’s “Puppet Gas” and interviews and hearings of the most serious nature.
We continue our efforts through our site www.libertyandjusticewv.org and have concluded that this is a global problem and that some nations do not have any human rights protection for their citizens. We not only must work for our own families but for those who are voiceless.
Do not let this happen where you live!
- www.naturalgaswatch.org September 2011, Denver, Colorado, Recognizing Shale Plays Early, slide #40.
- Virginia A. Sharpe and Alan J. Faden,Medical Harm(Cambridge University Press,1998)p.159
- An excellent and factual overview of the problem is presented by the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, P.O. Box 1102, Durango, Co.81302, www.ogap.org
Contact Marilyn & Robert Hunt - MKHunt@libertyandjusticewv.org