The Harmed, the Sickened, the Dead and the Disappeared:
Accounts of the impacts of shale gas drilling on people and animals
List compiled by J. Lisak of Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air (PACWA)
INTRODUCTION by Stephen Cleghorn of PACWA
This is a compilation of more than 200 cases that have appeared in the press about people and animals living in gas fields who have become sick and even died from exposure to air and water contamination associated with gas field facilities. More than half of these cases, by number of people affected, are from the Pennsylvania gas fields above the Marcellus Shale.
These cases have been assembled by citizen activists who are part of a small grassroots organization, with no resources other than their computers and thousands of hours of volunteer time trying to find what they can about the impacts and risks of “high volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing of long lateral well bores from multi-well pads” to extract methane and other hydrocarbons from tight shale formations (an entire process above and below ground that the public has come to know simply as “fracking.”
These citizens are paying attention. They are seeing the stories reported here and many others not reported here as evidence of grave harm to the environment, humans and animals. However, these stories come and go in the press. Only a very few attract extended follow-up investigation from the media. If the story is too damaging to the gas industry, the PR apparatus rises up and acts to destroy the credibility of people who are reporting that they are sick or their water has gone bad. The gas industry says “you cannot prove that we caused this,” and the people affected say, “My water and health was fine, my animals were fine, before the drilling came, but now they are ruined.” That is called “both sides of the story.
After the “he said/she said” moment has passed, after the richly endowed gas industry PR machine has done its work of sowing doubt and confusion, after people have been silenced by nondisclosure agreements from ever speaking of their problems again, after officials responsible for looking into these matters say they cannot say for sure what made people’s water go bad or made them sick, then the press moves on.
They leave behind the people living with “water buffalos” – if they are lucky – to have some clean water. They leave behind farms ruined, livestock buried and composted. They leave behind and forget about the ones whose health is ruined. Some people move out of the gas fields for the safety of themselves and their families. Some have become so depressed that suicide was their way out.
These are Pennsylvania’s new “disappeared ones.” Until there is a serious, ongoing, peer-reviewed scientific study of cause-and-effect, the industry can cry “All anecdotes!” The press will say, case by case, “End of story.” But there will be no such study in Pennsylvania because legislators refuse even to fund a health registry to collect the data. The new Pennsylvania law known as Act 13 prohibits doctors from sharing with other doctors at professional conferences what they find out in treating people sickened by exposure to drilling chemicals. There can be no gathering of essential public health and veterinary health information because the power of the gas industry over state legislators prohibits it.
These are the “disappeared” people and stories from the gas fields of Pennsylvania and other gas “fracking” fields of America. Attention must be paid to them.
[Note: this list is a living document. It keeps changing as people point out additions and corrections to it. The list can be accessed on the blog site of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air. Its compiler and author J.Lisak of PACWA invites comments to be made on the PACWA site so that she can continue to grow and improve the list. Link follows below.]