Pennsylvania sits on one of the largest shale rock formations in the continent, known as the Marcellus Formation. For decades now, oil and gas excavators have flocked to the state to take advantage of the formation which holds huge amounts of natural gas, extracting the gas through a highly technical and invasive procedure called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” A new report released last month, however, gives residents of the state a glimpse of the widespread economic and health consequences of the industrial practice.
The report, completed by a non-profit, publicly funded organization called the Public Herald, documented and organized 9,442 complaints about fracking filed by Pennsylvania citizens between the years of 2004 and 2016, one step in the ongoing revelation of the “widespread and systemic impacts related to ‘fracking’.”
The Public Herald first attempted to obtain the records of complaints from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in 2011, but their request was denied because the DEP said they “didn’t want to cause alarm.” After multiple inquiries and working through bureaucracy, the agency was able to attain an initial report of 6,819 complaints. The Herald organized and analyzed this data into a publicly available map which shows the frequency of complaints by municipality. They then filed a Right-to-Know request with the DEP and received a complete list of 9,442 complaints.
The numbers confirm what many Pennsylvania residents have known instinctively for years, that the number of serious issues related to fracking are not being publicly reported. The DEP previously had only reported 284 “positive water contaminations,” but failed to include the number of citizens who had been affected by fracking all over the state. “Thousands of news stories, YouTube videos and social media posts” document the detrimental effects of the practice, yet this new study suggests that official numbers have not been accurately reflecting the reality on the ground.
Some points from the reports are of particular interest. For example, 44% of the 9,442 complaints concern drinking water contamination and hazards. Many people in rural Pennsylvania rely on well water for their own consumption, as well as their animals and their crops. In addition, the Public Herald found a correlation between the increased frequency of unconventional shale gas extraction (fracking) and the number of complaints that the DEP received from citizens.
Some of the complaints that the report highlights include a citizen in Butler county whose water was described as “slimy” and was laced with 7 mg per liter of methane. Another resident said that their water was “yellow in color and greasy to the touch.” This person was shipped bottled water by the DEP. Other people complain of water full of sediment and smelling of petroleum or rotting eggs (a possible sign of sulfur contamination).
Safe and healthy water is a fundamental right for every citizen. If you or someone you love has experienced the devastating effects of chemical contamination, you may be entitled to compensation. Call trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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