Dan Hust | Democrat
SPONSORED BY DAMASCUS Citizens for Sustainability, around 200 people came to the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon Saturday to see videos and listen to an expert talk about the health effects of gas drilling.
Gas foes claim process unsafe
By Dan Hust
CALLICOON Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) founder Barbara Arrindell made it clear Saturday:
“We are not against the gas and oil industry as such,” she remarked to a crowd of 200 people at the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon.
But made equally clear was the fact that DCS is not going to let any company come in to drill for natural gas at the expense of the environment and quality of life.
That’s DCS’ reason for existence, and its efforts initially focused on Wayne County, Pa. are spilling over into New York State.
While a reasonable tone was struck, DCS via mailings and its website has taken a firm stance against gas drilling in the area. Indeed, Saturday evening’s two-hour presentation was all about the negative effects such drilling has had on communities in western Colorado and New Mexico, a possible harbinger of things to come if potential gas deposits underneath the region are as significant as expected.
Dr. Theo Colborn, an award-winning author and expert on endocrine disruption (she was part of the team that actually coined that term), gave a presentation via telephone about her studies and experiences, riveting a whisper-quiet audience.
“We have to make natural gas a public health issue at the national level,” she said.
Gas companies have sometimes said they only use sand and water to break up (frac) the soil and stone surrounding gas deposits buried 6,000-10,000 feet below ground. Up to 120 gallons of fluid can be employed, in addition to small explosives.
Problem is, said Colborn, a list of the chemical properties of that fracing fluid is typically not forthcoming. So she’s done her own studies.
“They tell us they’re only using organic compounds, but they’re not green,” Colborn explained.
Via a Powerpoint presentation based on her testimony last year to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, she cited studies that have shown up to 278 different chemicals in the fracing fluid, 93 percent of which have known health effects and 42 percent of which interfere with the body’s hormone-secretion process (known as endocrine disruptors).
Colborn determined that between 40 and 70 percent of that fluid is recovered, with the rest remaining in the local environment leading to concerns of contaminated aquifers and soil.
Plus, it’s all delivered and injected by trucks and machines that operate on diesel fuel, leading to smog worries.
The fracing, she said, has also had unintended effects, with newly-freed methane bubbling up in a nearby creek or escaping into the air.
“They could probably double their income if they could catch all the methane that’s getting away from them,” she said of the infamous global warming gas.
Following up on a video shown earlier in the evening, Colborn added that the noise of the drilling rigs though operating at a particular site for only a month or two “is unbelievable.”
The process also includes the use of biocides, she explained microorganisms designed to kill bacteria that would harm the pipes and related equipment.
Every step of the way, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are produced, she continued, many of which contribute to a low-hanging ozone layer that can cause respiratory problems and other ill health effects.
“The ozone we produce down here won’t make it to the stratosphere where it helps us,” Colborn related.
Despite her firm tone, however, she admitted that “there is a lot we don’t know,” thanks in part to gas companies unwilling to publicize their activities.
“But because of the magnitude of the industrial activity involved, we need full disclosure,” she said, recommending baseline monitoring of water quality and ozone levels, comprehensive and continual monitoring of water, air and soil quality, routine assessments of agricultural and drinking water depletion, and long-term protection of air and water resources.
“Don’t give up,” she urged the audience. “You must become informed. You must become objective. You must be as shrewd as the people you are dealing with.”
For more information on Colborn, visit www.endocrinedisruption.org.
For info on DCS, log on to www.damascuscitizens.org.
For more info on leasing, drilling and gas extraction, visit the Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s website at www.dec.ny .gov/energy/205.html.