‘When will lives mean more than money?’

Dear Editor:

Ever wondered why air at industrial sites, so polluted it causes nose bleeds and nausea, is often labeled “safe” by government studies?

It seems this is again the case, at least according to WV Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) Oil & Gas Director, Jamie Martin, regarding the DEP-commissioned WVU study of air quality at WV hydrofracturing (frack) sites. Likely expecting the study would not be read, Mr. Martin summarized it in a letter to the Legislature saying that no new rules on fracking air-quality need be “promulgated.” But, for once, a government study disagreed. Dr. McCawley, lead scientist for the team, had, in fact, stated that well-pad setback requirements are far too short for safety and the Legislature needs to act.

Such obfuscation appears to be the norm with our DEP. That no independent, or even EPA, frack study has been conducted in West Virginia is apparently due to DEP blocking tactics. These may range from threatening frack operations with inspections if they allow researchers in; to outright forbidding of sampling–as in the Lochgelly, WV, frack waste spill into a three-town water source. (dirtysecretwater.com)

This cover-up could be serious. In an independent, Albany, NY study of frack air quality in surrounding states (WV excluded, of course), head researcher, David Carpenter, concluded that frack air pollution is even more dangerous than that in water. Similar to the WVU study, Dr. Carpenter found unsafe levels of formaldehyde and Benzene 2,591 and 885 feet, respectively, from the well. The largest legal setback was 500 feet.

The pollution comes from all sides. Frack fluid, itself, according to the National Academy of Science’s Ground Water Study, has 632 chemicals – 75% of which damage kidneys and nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. Others cause cancer and hormone damage. From waste-pits, dehydrators, wells and spills, most of these pass into the air.

Particulates and hydrocarbons, produced by the countless diesel tankers and engines, cause smog plus pulmonary and cardiovascular disease; while openly-vented, condensate tanks hold nerve-damaging, highly carcinogenic, benzene and toluene. There are also frequent toxic and explosive methane releases.

Finally there are the flares. These add CO2 by the ton, more particulates, hydrocarbons and, probably, radon, and radium 226 from the shale. Radium 226, highly radioactive for 16 centuries, accumulates rather than dissipating, and causes leukemia and lung and bone cancer.

Heavier than air, this poisonous mix has collected in WV hollows in lethal concentrations. When, in West Virginia, will lives mean more than money?

Barbara Daniels



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