Black Water and Brazenness: Life in Shale Country is the first article in a series, “Bradford Blues: Gas Drilling Disrupts Lives, Endangers Health in Bradford County, PA,” based on interviews with residents in 2011.
In the streaming gold-green light of June, Bradford County’s rolling hills fill the soul with a sense of sweetness. But the beauty of a chestnut horse glowing against a green field on the high side of one road is marred by the huge fracking pit down a low hill on the other side.
Fracking pits are multi-million gallon earthen impoundments, lined with easily punctured plastic sheets, often filled with “flowback,” gas drilling waste with numerous toxic fracking chemicals. Flowback also includes dangerous materials which are harmless deep down in the shale but are brought up by drilling and fracking processes. These contaminants include arsenic, barium, and the intensely radioactive radium 226, which causes lung and bone cancer and has a half-life of 1,600 years.
Fracking Fumes, Bad Water, and Namelessness
Local people such as Monika Osborn worry about the proximity of gas drilling operations to schools, waterways, and to their own homes. ”I’m surrounded by 28 gas wells,” Osborn said last weekend, referring to them as “monsters.” She said she was “nearly suffocated” by a wave of fumes coming from a drilling operation last week. Osborn, who has refused to sign a lease, mentions quietly that she is losing her hair, but hasn’t reported this to any authorities. Mistrust of the industry, of the PA Deparment of Environmental Protection (DEP), and of everyone in government who is supposed to be looking out for people’s health and well-being, runs rampant in Bradford County, as I found out early. …………………..
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“The brazenness, the lies, the immorality of it knocks you off your feet, to take away people’s water and not repace it,” said Osborn.
Jody and Jason’s family can’t shower safely at home or provide the animals drinking water from their own well. As a recent study by researchers at Duke University pointed out, the health consequences of human exposure to high levels of methane through ingestion and skin contact has yet to be studied.
Black water, gray water, fizzy water, flaming water…. What the frack is going on when people don’t have clean, safe water in Pennsylvania in the year 2011?