Not One More Teaspoon
May 31, 2011
Cancer. It’s a word that touches on very powerful feelings to us all. It’s not a word to be tossed around lightly. It is a word that should not be brought into conversation without good reason. I’ve good reason. Drilling and hydraulic fracking for shale gas uses hundreds of chemicals, some of which are proven carcinogens.
Some people refer to Pennsylvania as being part of the US “cancer belt” or “cancer alley.” Under no circumstances should we be putting more cancer causing agents into our environment, yet that is exactly what fracking companies are currently doing.
With fracking, water and chemicals, including benzene (a known carcinogen) are injected underground at high levels of pressure. About 20% of the frack water flows back to the surface. This water now includes extremely high levels of bromide, which can result in trihalomethane formation (a known carcinogen). This “produced” water is temporarily held in surface pits. There have already been confirmed instances of leaks from these pits in Tioga County. Tanker trucks then haul this toxic brew to sewage treatment plants, many of which are on the Susquehanna. There have already been instances of trucks leaking onto the roads. A few weeks ago a substance was found on Route 11 in Northumberland. It was confirmed to be frack water (WKOK news May 9, 2011). Before it could be “cleaned-up” cars drove through that spill and made the chemicals go airborne. How many people breathed in these substances? Recent restrictions outlawed the use of older treatment plants, however some local plants are still used to dispose of the water. These plants treat the water and release it directly into the river. Some produced water is hauled to Ohio and injected into underground wells.
5.6 million gallons of water are needed to drill and fracture a Marcellus deep shale gas well (Chesapeake Energy Marcellus fact sheet 2010). These 5.6 million gallons become tainted with chemicals as well as dangerous, sometimes radioactive, compounds. Currently about 3,000 wells have been permitted. Industry wants that number to reach around 100,000 wells. Industry expects us to believe that no dangerous chemicals are being released into the environment. I reject this. Nothing is fail proof. Let's give industry the benefit of the doubt and assume they are able to account for 99.999% of their frack water. That means only 0.001% of the total frack water would end up in the air, on the ground, or in our creeks and rivers. How much is that? 0.001% equals 560,000,000 gallons of toxic brew. Where? In our well water? In the air we breathe? On the soil in which we grow our food?
When it comes to cancer causing chemicals in Pennsylvania, we cannot take 560 million gallons of frack water added to our environment. In my opinion we can't take 1 more teaspoon of carcinogens in Pennsylvania! I would be willing to bet that every single person reading this has a friend or family member who has had a brush with cancer. Are we seriously willing to risk more cancer for more energy and jobs? A recent report by the House of Representatives said 29 of the chemicals injected during fracking were known-or-suspected human carcinogens.
I have played music at several summer camps for children who are cancer survivors. Camp Victory / Camp Dost and Camp Can-Do to name a few local examples. These children are amazing. I’m always amazed how grateful they are to me for spending a few hours simply singing with them. It is I who should be thankful. These children have smiles worth their weight in gold. They are filled with joy and know more about love and friendship than most adults. I challenge any fracking advocate to donate some time at one of these camps. While there sit down at the dinner table with these kids and try to explain to them why grown-ups want to put more cancer causing chemicals in our environment because of things like energy, stock values and jobs.
We must abandon hydraulic fracking immediately. To my fellow citizens I ask you to stand with my wife and me. Do not lease your land to a gas company. We are ahead of the curve in Montour, Snyder, Central Columbia, and Northumberland Counties. Lets stay that way!
*Van Wagner lives in Danville and is a Lewisburg Area High School Science teacher currently completing his graduate research in Earth Science from The Pennsylvania State University.
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Maps obtained from National Cancer Institute's Cancer Mortality Maps & Graphs