Yesterday, in a press release and in some papers, PA Senator Bob Casey(D) was quoted saying there have been cases of water well contamination by hydraulic fracturing chemicals in his state. This is simply not true - not even in Dimock, PA, where natural gas itself got into the water, not fracing chemicals. PA DEP confirmed this with testing. Natural gas in water is different than fracing chemicals in water -- NG is an explosion hazard, which is easily abted by proper venting in most cases. Natural gas is not toxic or poisonouos, and will not make people sick. Animals will not drink it. It does not discolor water.

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Rita-- Would it be incorrect to say that toxic chemicals are never going to be a concern with gas drilling in the State? For example, I refer you to this recent development, which I quote:
Another October, 2008 report indicated that Range is heavily involved in Washington County in southwestern Pennsylvania. In 2003, it had drilled a test well in the County's 2,700-acre Cross Creek Park that was successful. By 2008 three gas wells in the park were producing 30 Mmcf/d. Cross Creek Park was again in the news in June, 2009 when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was considering a possible enforcement action against Range over apparent toxic drainage from a leaky coupling on a six inch waste water pipe running from a recently drilled well to an impoundment area. Reportedly, there had been a fish, salamander, crayfish and aquatic insect kill in about three-quarters of a mile of a stream leading into Cross Creek Lake. DEP was taking water samples both above and below where drainage from the leaky coupling entered the stream in order to be analyzed as one aspect to their investigation. A company spokesperson indicated a vandal may be to blame for the problem.
Toxic chemicals can get into the water supply from other things besides well contamination such as a break in the plastic liner of a containment pit, or as in the above case where the chemical release apparently resulted from sabotage by vandals. (that's obviously going to be a pretty rare occurrence).

The big concern in my mind is that there will be ill-considered legislation. For example, the recent API study makes it clear that stopping hydro-fracturing, because of environmental concerns over toxic chemicals in the drinking water could be a disaster for the country. What can the States of Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio do to better reassure the public that they are keeping a watchful eye on water pollution? In the Cross Creek Park incident in Washington County, the DEP seemed to be handling things magnificently. -- Tom
I don't think you can say there are never problems with any kind of construction or industrial process. That said, I think many in the industry understand that we have serious challenges to face with water -- particularly related to disposal. Its a problem -- we know it. We want a solution to it as much as anyone else. But I think the majority of the public are cautious when they hear "we're working on it." Spills, mechanical failure -- all of those things happen, and they do cause damage. But those incidents, among responsible companies and prepared agencies, can be handled correctly. They happen all the time in othr industries, and few are aware of it. Accidents should be treated as they are with any industry. Its impossible to regulate the unexpected.

Good business practices can play a role in helping people find clarity. For instance, my company tests water wells as required by law (at1,000 ft), but also any in the area that it thinks warrant testing based on geology, access road placement, whatever. Not everyone does that, but we do. We also talk to our lessors when they want an answer, try to hire as many local workers as possible, and use our town halls to tell people what we're going to be doing where -- not as an infomercial about the shale and our wonderful achievements. We think it can be done right -- and when we make mistakes, we fix them. I think thats pretty reasonable.

What frustrates me, as I'm sure it does you as well, is the level of miscommunication that occurs with something as complicated as well drilling. I don't deny that well drilling activity can cause water contamination -- but to say that it has occurred here already is just plain wrong. It hasn't. And natural gas can get into water even when water wells are drilled. This is confusing business. And don't think for a moment that opponents of drilling don't use that to their advantage.

There are indeed bad ators in the industry, as there are in any industry. But there are also those who follow the rules -- as the Range story shows. (the sabotage thing is more common than you think -- we just had a story here where disgruntled employees emptied a well tank onto the ground.) They reported their problem, and worked with the state and county to assess the problem and respond. But these stories also add fuel to the fire of people who actually believe that frac fluid will travel 8,000 ft through non-porous rock and various geological strata to enter their water wells. The chances of that happening are so small that requiring layers of regulation to stop it from happening is just a waste of government money.

This industry has never been particularly good at sharing its story. Yet we touch the lives of so many every day. We're getting better at opening up, but is going to take some time for us to earn trust. In the meantime, I think this is one good way to communicate, person by person.
Thanks for adding that Ruby. And you are absolutely right -- local papers don't always get the credit they deserve for good reporting and more in depth, closer to the action coverage. The OR is a definite example of this. I used to work with them a great deal, and I think they have some really top-notch folks.
Nice post, Rita. Well said. Tom
People has been exposed to these fluids though, and the results are not pretty:
http://www.hcn.org/wotr/gas-industry-secrets-and-a-nurses-story

Drilling mud itself is a problem:
http://txsharon.blogspot.com/2009/10/video-aruba-petroleum-toxic-sp...

Note that a number of companies use open pits like that for mud & fracing fluids. So, it gets in the air easily
if they don't use a tank to hold those.

Then, once the well is fraced, gas production has it's hazards:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9TzK4b0yCrw/Su2yxPFsy3I/AAAAAAAACys/AMg5H...

Many chemicals, like hydrogen sulfide(very toxic!), benzene(a major bad carcinogen), toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, and naphthalene are present with the gas that comes up, as well as "produced water", which often has enough salt & carbonates to kill fish in any water it gets into.
Mike --

I refer you mainly to my above post for a reaction to your statements.

On the nurse story, you should know that the field worker himself only ever sustained mild nausea. Also, had the doctor actually contacted the services company for the information on the fluids, it would have been required by law to divulge that information -- yet there are no charges pending against the services company for not doing that.

You seem to believe that natural gas companies and their services companies are unable to perform operations they have done over and over again without causing major environmental damage. However, in Pennsylvania, more than 300 wells have been drilled and fraced. Yet the only instances of problems -- one which did cause h2o contamination by natural gas (not fracing fluids) and one that killed fish but never caused harm to the water table -- both by the same company, seem to be the only major issues anyone raises. Two -- in over 300. Thats a pretty good safety record for an industry -- and they were both caused by the same company.

The chemicals you refer to are not ones commonly used by companies to frac. In fact, you probably ingest more benzene through the air driving by a road construction/resurfacing project than would be used in fracing. Thats why road workers wear those respirators. Toluene, until recently, was a major component of nail polishes. Its a major factor impacting the "produced water" from many municipal waste landfills. There are naturally occurring metals and minerals that DO come up with flowback water. Thats why flowback water needs to be treated. The reason it may stay in impoundments longer than it should is beacuse when treatment facilities are designed and proposed, the NIMBY factor sets in, and engineers cannot get the ok to build what is most needed. As a result, water sits in impoundments, waiting to be trucked to facilities where it can be treated under permit regulations.

You are correct in thinking there are true challenges to making the Marcellus Shale work. However, given the fact that so many wells have been successfully developed with so little problem, you might want to consider giving the industry at least a little credit. Hard as it may be to believe, we understand the concerns you have -- they are ours as well, after all. If your cynical about that, think of it this way -- problems cost us lots of money we could be making.

We work hard to explain a very complicated process to residents in drilling areas -- one we've spent lifetimes working with and studying. Key industry leaders have asked for even more transparency on fracing fluid additives (even though there are lists of what could be used all over the Internet).

And yet somehow, its easier to believe activists who don't understand basic geology, know the difference between the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and have no idea that the industry is policed by State Oil and Gas laws, Federal OSHA regs, Federal EPCRA regs and many others. Industry folks have years of experience in doing what they do, and deserve to be listened to as well as anyone else. Don't be motivated by fear alone.
It might be "required" by law, but Halliburton told Newsweek:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/154394

"Also, propriety trade laws don't require energy companies to disclose their ingredients. "It is much like asking Coca-Cola to disclose the formula of Coke," says Ron Heyden, a Halliburton executive, in recent testimony before the COGCC."

and The High Country News paper they were not going to divulge any of the components of their fracing fluids:

"Although the company that makes the frac'ing fluid provided Behr's doctors with what it calls "'Material Data Safety Sheets"' at the time of the incident, it refused to provide more specific information to the hospital once she fell ill, according to the Herald. Her intensive-care doctor had to guess what to do as he tried to keep her alive."

"Compounds commonly injected into the ground include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and a fracing formula called hydrocarbon methanol phosphate ester, which Behr's doctor suspects is what poisoned her."

"Halliburton has said that having to identify its frac'ing ingredients would mean giving away trade secrets, much like requiring Coca-Cola to reveal its secret for Coke. Here's a thought: Coke does tell consumers what's in every can of its soft drinks, even if it doesn't reveal the exact recipe. And last time I checked, spilling some on your lap won't bring on heart, liver and respiratory failure."

"hydrocarbon methanol phosphate ester" is a type of organophospate, know to be quite neurotoxic.

Yes, there's fracing fluid lists out there, but vary in the number of chemicals listed. And, some of them are still bad anyway you look at them:

http://splashdownpa.blogspot.com/2009/10/table-5-6-from-nys-dsgeis-...
I was seeing comments the other way here:

http://cbf.typepad.com/bay_daily/2009/11/my-entry.html#more
A few things to think about. This article focuses on the issues in Dimock PA, which are the same two instances I referred to earlier. They are constantly trotted out to make points.

Its important to note that the first situation in Dimock was not related at all to fracing -- the natural gas in the water there was a result of bad casing and cementing. It released gas into the water wells from a formation much higher than the Marcellus. DEP has studied and confirmed that. Many of the complaints logged by folks in Dimock couldn't possibly come from gas (dirty water for instance). Look at the history of the area - its geological past, and industrial past (full of rock quarries) lend to some of whats heppening as well as drilling does.

In the second instance, or I should say group of instances, there was a failure in a line leading to the well during fracing from what I understand. It DID indeed spill fracing fluid into the stream and cause fish kills. Important to note here -- the fish likely died from suffocation from the gel, not necessarily from chemicals. This is certainly not something that anyone wants to happen, but more importantly, no damage has been found to the water table. None.

Don't believe everyone in Dimock is unhappy and telling scary stories. There is a gentleman who writes on this site who lives across the street from one of the parties regularly in these articles, and he has had no problems. Cabot's wells there have come in heavily -- even if the landowner received a pittance for a rental fee, they're making good money on royalties.

The nurse story is part real, part urban legend. If a doctor had called Halliburton and demanded to know what was in there for treatment, and they refused to divulge, there would be criminal action. Those comments likely came from other interviews, etc. and were applied to the situation.

But thats all splitting hairs. I've been working in community relations and public affairs for over 15 years. And here's what I'll tell you. No matter what side you're listening to, there is some level of exaggeration most of the time. I've worked with activists and environmentalists for years -- believe me, they are not exempt from such exaggeration and tactics as the perceived morality of their position may have you believe.

Considering the current energy crisis and the climate change emergency, you have to take all of what you hear with a grain of salt. Extreme environmental groups want all fossil fuels phased out. Period. They have PR machines as well funded as those we have in industry -- don't be fooled by the "citizen against the corporation" story. We want to sell gas. We knoew we have detractors, we try to be as positive as possible.

What I'm saying is this. Is industry perfect? No -- we could never claim to be. But we're certainly not as evil and awful as some would have you believe. Contrary to popular belief, we're not trying to poison people. Like any industrial/manufacturing process, there are challenges and concerns that need to be addressed. No one denies that.

But keep in mind, there are also agendas on the activist side. Some are fueled financially by investors looking to profit from the growth of solar or wind power (that does not make solar or wind a bad thing). Some are funded by people who would rather see off shore oil and gas development. Others are motivated by the fact that people -- including their neighbors -- are profiting from gas drilling and they are not. Even the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is not without its agenda. Others simply hate the notion of capitalism.

Yes, there will be accidents from time to time, There may be a bad actor or two. But the liklihood is that even those mistakes and accidents won't cause major damage to the environment or anyone's water, as we see in the Dimock spill situations. Afterall, car accidents happen daily and we don't stop driving. Planes fall out of the sky and we still get on them.

We need energy to fuel the world. Natural gas is abundant, available and relatively clean. I ask that you do some research from the geological side and the industry side before you decide drilling should not happen.
I have no interests in ridding the world of gas, for I'm unemployed. I do use a variety of fuels in my life, but I am against the mentality of drill now, fix the side affects later on. As it is, several supposedly well engineered underground gas/LPG storage caverns have failed over the years, some resulting in deaths:

http://mobayhub.com/_filelib/FileCabinet/Articles/article_singlepoi...

So, I'm supposed to have trust in the numerous shale gas wells out there, that they will do better than these "fully engineered" storage facilities in preventing disaster? One Texas resident had a fracing type well about 300 feet from her house go nuts, spraying drilling mud beyond the bank of the mud pit. Yet, the drilling company had no idea there was a problem until she called them up, & told them about it. How would the drilling company know about something like a H2S leak?

And, who will deal with the bad actors? Most state DEQ/EPA type agencies are underfunded, or afraid of the major players:

http://rancholoslosmalulos.blogspot.com/

You would think condensate would have enough value to recover & sell, but the owners of the minerals there seem to think other wise. What are the safeguards to prevent that from happening 10 to 50 years down the road in the shale gas regions, including Marcellus? As it is, employers can force workers to go into dangerous situations without Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but if they don't die, it's had to charge them under the current laws:

http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/365105_workingwounded30.html

Note that EPA didn't come charging in to prosecute anyone, even though the toughest charges they could bring were Environmental crimes, not maiming someone. So, how do we trust fracing if there's few laws to regulate it? OSHA won't help the residents near gas wells with their issues.

Yes, no industry is perfect, but are they willing to fix what they do wrong? In my area, a litany of companies are having to clean up toxins that got into underground water from their operations: Fairchild, IBM, AMD, Oin, IT&T, and others.

Will it be that way there?
Mike,
I really have to say that the anti-drilling groups have taken things way too far. I live near Dimock, know people there and keep up with everything going on in the area. What I have seen is a complete fairytale conjured up by certain groups and they have no interest in actual fact.

As a resident and landowner in marcellus territory in PA and NY, I have to make it my business to know what is going on. However I only deal with FACTS. I am also part of a group of several thousand landowners who keep in touch daily, search out the good and the bad of drilling, and make sure all info is verified. That said, we have come to the conclusion that drilling is GOOD for the area -- good for the landowners, the general public, the townships, and the government, in addition to the country and the environment.

Certainly there have been occasional accidents in drilling, as in EVERY other industry, but the propaganda coming from the anti-drilling groups is just plain garbage. If you are a resident or landowner in the area, make it your priority to learn the facts from independent sources (such as the DEP, for example, if you believe all the Dimock bunk).
Well, this gets confusing when I read something like this:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/6703650.html

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