Frack Ponds More Than Just Water

frackpondAt first glance to the photo above, this looks like an inviting swimming pool.

It’s not.

This is a frack pond, also known as impoundment pits.

It’s huge and it’s full of toxic liquid waste from drilling and fracking operations.

The natural gas industry will tell you it’s just “brine” or “salt water”. The industry will tell their workers it’s just “brine” or “salt water”.

It’s not.

It is full of toxic liquid waste.

It’s hazardous waste.

In August 2011, Randy Moyer started driving trucks hauling the “brine”. He didn’t know what else was in the “brine”.

Sometimes we’d go in the tanks.  They’d use the super sucker to clean them out.  In there you would wear a hardhat and goggles but no mask.  In the tank you’d spray hot water to clean out the frack fluid…The more they spayed and the longer I stayed in the wetter my feet got.  It would soak through my boots.

They didn’t provide us any specialized equipment or gear because they don’t want to scare the public.

If the public sees guys in hazmat suits they’re going to start to ask questions.  The drilling companies would rather endanger the public and the workers than answer too many questions.”– Randy Moyer

By November 2011, Randy had to stop working because he became ill.   He’s still ill today.

If I get anywhere near a frack site or a compressor station I throw up. This stuff gets into your eyes and ears. My tongue, lips, and limbs all swelled up.

I’ve had three teeth snap off. The first two broke while I was eating garlic bread and spaghetti. I have burning rashes all over my body that jump from place to place.

I’ve been to the emergency room 10 more times and have seen over 40 specialists in PA and WV.

It only took me four months on the gas rigs is get this stuff in me and now no one seems to know how to get it out.” – Randy Moyer

Russell Evans of Triadelphia was a truck driver hauling the “brine” from a Range Resources site.   One morning, while attempting to stop a leak from the back hatch of his tanker truck, he was doused with the “brine”.

A Range Resources employee told him it was just water and would not harm him. Russell was ordered to stay on site until cleared to leave.   It took two hours to clean up the “just water” and should make you wonder why “just water” had to be cleaned up.

Russell stood in his wet clothes; no one examined him or arranged for him to take a “chemical bath”. Instead, Russell was told to wash off the “just water” at a nearby McDonalds.

When Russell developed a rash and blisters his doctor told him he could not be treated because no one knew what chemicals Russell had been exposed to.

Russell was also refused medical treatment at an emergency room a week after being splashed with the “water” because of his inability to identify the chemicals.

Russell has skin ailments, nausea, shortness of breath, indigestion, vertigo and headaches, as well as potentially permanent skin discoloration and permanent sensitivity to sunlight.

Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the components of all industry materials, including reuse water, are disclosed by law.

Russell is suing Range Resources.

What’s in the Frack Pond?
No one really knows what is in the frack ponds.   They do know it’s not “just brine” or “just water”.

There is much concern and attention about what chemicals go DOWN the well to frack, and very little concern and attention about what is coming back up.

Frack ponds may be used to store the toxic liquid for one or more well pads.   This makes it even more difficult to identify what is in those ponds.

The toxic liquid, also known as flowback, is a combination of the fracking chemicals and formation fluids.   Formation fluids are naturally occurring compounds found in the deep shale layers. It may contain arsenic, barium, radium, strontium, manganese, and a number of other hazardous materials.

How are drilling wastes produced? Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

“The briney solution contained in reservoirs of oil and gas is known as “formation water.” During drilling, a mixture of oil, gas, and formation water is pumped to the surface. The water is separated from the oil and gas into tanks or pits, where it is referred to as “produced water.”

As the oil and gas in the reservoir are removed, more of what is pumped to the surface is formation water. Consequently, declining oil and gas fields generate more produced water.

While uranium and thorium are not soluble in water, their radioactive decay product, radium, and some of its decay products are somewhat soluble. Radium and its decay products may dissolve in the brine.”

Geochemists have found dangerous levels of radioactivity and salinity at a fracking disposal site near Blacklick Creek, which feeds into water sources for Pittsburgh and other western Pennsylvania cities.

The Duke scientists spent two years, from 2010 to 2012, taking soil samples upstream and downstream from the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility in Indiana County, PA.

Even after waste water was treated at the plant to remove dangerous chemicals, radiation was detected far above regulated levels.

The treated water had Radium levels 200 times greater than control water from the area, said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and one of the primary authors of the study.

Disclosure? Really?
As mentioned, Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the components of all industry materials, including reuse water, are disclosed by law.

There are loopholes in the law large enough to drive a tanker truck through.

Act 13 requires drillers to list chemical used in FRACKING, not the “reuse water” on a website called FracFocus.

Drillers are not required to disclose “proprietary” or “trade secret chemicals” on FracFocus.   Many of the chemical they do disclose are listed by brand name, not by chemical make-up.

In a lawsuit filed against Range Resources, Range was ordered by the court to give the plaintiffs a full list of the chemicals used in fracking and those contained in the frack pond.

Range Resources couldn’t produce the list. Range Resources admitted it did not have an all-encompassing knowledge of the complete chemical make-up of each chemical product. Range Resources also said they were unable to obtain the chemical make-up from the manufacturers.

Manufacturers of the fracking chemicals are not required to disclose the ingredients and are protected by trade secret laws.

According to Harvard Law’s Environmental Law Program Report in 2013, FracFocus fails as a compliance tool.

Two of the reasons for failing FracFocus should be of a great concern.

  • Drillers have sole discretion of what is or isn’t a trade secret.
  • NO ONE reviews the information entered by the drillers

Medical Non-Disclosure Agreement
Act 13 states drillers must disclose the fracking chemicals to medical and emergency personnel. To protect the “trade secrets”, medical and emergency personnel must sign a non-disclosure agreement. This medical non-disclosure agreement has become known as the medical gag.

Keeping in mind that Act 13 became law in February 2012, and it is now 3 years later, a system or procedure for requesting information on fracking chemicals, including the ability to obtain the confidentiality agreement should be in place.

By now there should be a phone number, email, web link or similar to enable medical professionals to quickly request the information from somewhere.

There isn’t.

What is especially frightening is even if there were such a non-disclosure agreement, and a procedure existed to obtain the chemical list – the drillers do not know what they are putting down the drill hole, and know even less about what is coming back up.

Drillers tell us it’s “just brine” or “just water”, do you believe them?

 

© 2015 by Dory Hippauf

 

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