Belfast water supply at risk

The Belfast Telegraph have reported that there is risk that local water supplies that feed the City of Belfast run risk of contamination by Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction (USGE) practices proposed for the area.

The USGE project being carried out by company ‘Infrastrata’ will be taking place 380meters from Woodburn Reservoir, Carrickfergus.

Ms. Joyce, a local campaigner told the telegraph:

“The Woodburn reservoir outside Carrickfergus supplies Dorisland Water Works, which feeds water to over 1,900 streets, from Ballycarry right down to Belfast city centre.

“Following a freedom of information request we received a map showing exactly where the water from the reservoir goes. It supplies hospitals, health centres, schools, offices, residential areas and all the eateries in central Belfast.

“We feel that the drill potentially could contaminate the water supply and everyone supplied by it should be aware of this.

“A motion has been tabled for debate in the City Hall at 5pm on Tuesday, proposed by the Green Party and seconded by the Ulster Unionist Party.

South Woodburn Resivoir. According to population review, the greater belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)
South Woodburn Reservoir. According to population review, the greater Belfast area has a population of approx. 585,000 inhabitants, making it the 11th largest conurbation in the UK. (image source: doeni.co.uk)

“We lobbied hard for this debate to go ahead and are hopeful that it will raise even more awareness of the potential hazard the drill could pose.”

Woodburn Reservoir supplied 705 streets across Belfast, 532 streets in Carrickfergus, 576 in Newtownabbey, 59 in Larne, 80 in Whitehead, four in Ballycarry and one street in Antrim.

Ms Joyce added: “The decision to grant InfraStrata rights to drill 380 metres from our water was made without consultation.

“The right to participate and be informed is being violated. The risks of exploratory drilling are detailed and well documented and it appears that the need for intense scrutiny in relation to this sensitive site has been avoided.”

The debate is to take place in Belfast City Hall tomorrow, 1st September 2015.

The Telegrapgh further reported: “However, Infrastrata says it is committed to the project and is in discussions with a number of other parties to secure the £2.8m lost by Larne Oil and Gas pulling out. Infrastrata also said that all the “regulatory approvals and other permits” were in place for work to begin this winter, but the company added that the timing depended on getting a drilling slot for the rig and completing the funding.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Fracking explosion kills 70,000 fish

A fracking explosion that occurred in Ohio last year (June 2014) ended up killing 70,000 fish in what appears to be a series of unfortunate events that would make even Lemony Snicket blush.

The Ohio disaster serves as a stark reminder of the fact that with fracking accidents, the damage created can be quite difficult to bring to a halt, even despite our best efforts of regulation and mitigation.
The Ohio disaster serves as a stark reminder of the fact that with fracking accidents, the damage created can be quite difficult to bring to a halt, even despite our best efforts of regulation and mitigation.

The event started at 9am, June 28th 2014, with a break in a hydraulic line that sprayed fracking chemicals over nearby hot machinery.This in turn caused an estimated 20 trucks to catch fire, leading to 30 recorded explosions

The fracking well was allowed to leak for a full 15 hours allowing flow back fluid to emit into a tributary of Opossum creak, until the wells closure at midnight.

The fires themselves were burning for seven days, despite the best efforts of local fire services who fought to extinguish the flames.

The incident is a sobering reminder to the environmental risks posed by shale gas extraction operations, where both fracking companies and governments have fought to sooth public opinion on the dangers of unconventional shale gas extraction.

The Ohio explosion, or explosions as it were, lead to the death of around 70,000 fish and also facilitated the deaths of salamanders, frogs and crayfish through the exposure of flow back fluids that were estimated to travel 5 miles from the epicentre, falling short of the main Ohio River.

Opossum Creek leads into the Ohio River, 1.7 miles upstream from public drinking waters for West Virginian residents. Officials say that no drinking water was contaminated by the tragedy.

Kentucky fracked fish?

Nami Resources Company, a Kentucky based Oil and Gas Company have pleaded guilty to charges that infringed both the Clean Water Act and Endangered species Act after it was found that a 2007 fracking waste water spill led to the deaths of several species of fish in the area.

They were fined $50,000 for the incident.

The fracking waste water originated from four of their fracking well sites into the Acorn Fork Creek in south-eastern Kentucky. Soon after, the majority of the fish in the area died, including those that belonged to two endangered species.

Chrosomus cumberlandensis, otherwise known as the 'Blackside Dace', was one of teh endangered species of fish negatively affected by the incident.
Chrosomus cumberlandensis, otherwise known as the ‘Blackside Dace’, was one of the endangered species of fish negatively affected by the incident.

Researchers studied water samples and the bodies of the dead fish, and concluded that the fracking spillage had lead to an acidification of the water, and resulted in the fish genocide, with the deceased fish showing signs of gill lessons, liver and spleen damage.

The research into the incident formed the basis of the 2013 peer reviewed study here.

 

Denmark’s first fracking site shut down

The Danish Energy Agency (Energistyrelsen) has placed a suspension of operations on Denmark’s first fracking site.
The farcking site in Northern Jutland, Denmark, was suspended 24hrs after drilling began. (image source: thelocal.dk)
The fracking site in Northern Jutland, Denmark, was suspended 24hrs after drilling began. (image source: thelocal.dk)
The contract for the site in Northern Juteland was first awarded in June 2014 French energy giant Total. However operations at the shale gas extraction site have been halted on the grounds that Total were using chemicals that were not declared in the preceding Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA).
The chemical in question is Null Foam, which is used in the fracking process to extract shale gas. As reported by Russia Today:
The chemical is not illegal, according to Henrik Nicolaisen, who leads the drilling project for Total.“We have been in dialogue with both the municipality and the Danish Energy Agency since February and we felt that we had a common understanding that the substance could be used,” he told DR, as cited by AFP.Environmental committee chairman of Frederikshavn Council Anders Brandt Sørensen said Total’s use of the non-approved product “makes [him] very mad”.“We will simply not accept this kind of violation of our EIA [environmental impact assessment],” he told broadcaster DR.
To read the article in full, click here.

Health & HVHF [High Volume Hydraulic Fracking] Feb 2015

FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network] is a cross-community network of individual Fermanagh residents. We are not affiliated to any political party or other organisation but work with a broad range of groups and individuals who are concerned about the risks associated with unconventional oil and gas extraction using high volume hydraulic fracking [HVHF].

FFAN strongly believe that you should not do things that have the potential to be very dangerous on a large scale and thus caution MUST be practiced. The Precautionary Principle: when an activity raises the threat of serious or irreversible harm to humans or the environment, then precautionary measures should be taken, even if not all the science of cause and effect have been fully established. These measures can include the decision not to allow certain activities to commence if the risks are deemed too high. Professor Oswald of Cornell University [USA] has described HVHF as ‘an uncontrolled health experiment on an enormous scale’. However the Public Health research is now beginning to come through from areas undergoing HVHF and these findings are very worrying.

FFAN

The proposed development of shale gas extraction in Fermanagh would involve the technique of ‘fracking’. Fracking is more correctly termed High Volume Hydraulic Fracking [HVHF] and has only recently become available to the oil & gas industry, and widespread there only since 2005. HVHF is very different from the traditional fracking which has been used by the industry for the last sixty years to extract conventional oil and gas. The scale and intensity of the new HVHF operations combined with the vastly increased amounts of water required has led some states in the USA and other Countries to, quite appropriately, consider this a new and unproven industry. The volumes of water per frack are usually 80 to 100 times more than used in a traditional frack. As such, this new industry, with its new risks is only recently been studied as to its impacts on human health. Unfortunately many aspects of research is hampered by disclosure orders against both the public involved and the Physicians who attempt to treat and study these patients. Several academic institutions in the USA have been discouraged from carrying out independent research into fracking. Even more alarming, several institutions including the University of Texas have had to withdraw misleading health research after the discovery of researchers’ links to the HVHF industry that had not been disclosed at the time of publication.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health [CMOH] for New Brunswick, Canada commissioned and published a very concerning report in 2012 into Shale Gas Development and its impact on Public Health. This report & its recommendations is available at the website www.gnb.ca Her report raises specific concerns regarding the negative impacts on Public Health relating to the ‘Boomtown effect’. These include increased levels alcohol abuse, illegal drug use and sexually transmitted diseases. These negative factors cause significant burden to local services and communities, where most people experience the down side of HVHF with only a few benefiting from HVHF. Also present is risks to air quality, noise, vibration, continuous illumination and physical hazards due to extensive heavy truck use. Some areas of the USA have seen their MVC [motor vehicle collision] rate increase by 50% since HVHF has arrived. These excess MVCs & fatalities are mostly due to the continuous presence of huge HVHF trucks on country roads, and also an increase incidence of ‘drink driving’.

Reports and studies now emerging include leading articles in the renowned Lancet & British Medical Journal last year. Most of the information below is drawn from the three sources mentioned above plus the CHPNY compendium [2nd Edition released Dec 2014]. CHPNY stands for ‘Concerned Health Professionals of New York State’ and is made up mostly, but not exclusively, of Doctors, Nurses & Medical Academics. Their website is www.concernedhealthny.org This very important compendium is updated every six months and is ‘open access’ to all, both researchers & public.

The very important Public Health review of HVHF was released by the New York State Department of Health also in December 2014. This report was the cornerstone of evidence used by the New York State Commissioner to issue a legally binding statement that prohibits HVHF in that State. This report can be accessed at www.health.ny.gov

Below I have summarised a fraction of points from the 100 page CHPNY compendium which covers 16 major topics relating to HVHF. I have also put in some salient comments from New York State report. What has come out of the research in North America is that regulations are simply not capable of preventing harm. This is because some of frackings’ many component parts, which include the subterranean geological landscape itself, are simply not controllable. Add to this scenario human error and also ‘cutting corners’ to save time & money and this boom & bust industry is not safe to be regulated even by our Government agencies.

Air pollution:

Infant mortality rose six times above the normal background rate over three years since the advent of HVHF at Uintah, Utah.

281% increase in Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs are known carcinogens and neurological disruptors] predicted at HVHF area of Eaglesford, Texas.

Research estimates total annual VOC emissions at fracking sites are equivalent to 100 million cars [USA currently has 150M cars on its roads].

Increased risk of congenital heart defects associated with living within ten miles of gas wells.

Dangerous levels of benzene in air around fracking sites; Health Official states ‘The concerns of the Public are validated’.

Decreased birth weight and increased premature birth rate [both predictors of increased risk of life long ill health] associated with women living closer to fracking sites, cause; air pollution.

American Lung Association states air quality in rural areas close to fracking sites now worse than air quality in urban areas.

The Colorado School of Public Health [2012] showed an increased risk of ill health, both cancer & non-cancer, of people living near frack pads.

Parts of Utah, previously with pristine air quality, now has levels of smog and pollution that rival downtown Los Angeles.

Albany University study shows eight highly toxic chemicals in air samples collected near fracking sites across five states. Most common were benzene & formaldehyde; 29 out of 76 samples far exceeded federal health & safety standards. Lead researcher stated ‘Cancer has a long latency, so you’re not seeing an elevation in cancer in these communities [yet]. But in five, 10, 15 years from now, elevation in cancer is almost certain to happen’.

Water Pollution:

What is pumped into the wells at extreme high pressure is called the frack water or ‘frack fluid’. Even if this ‘frac fluid’ contains no added chemicals [a very unlikely scenario] what comes back up in the HVHF ‘flow back’ water poses serious health problems to humans. On average, 50% of the frack fluid returns as flowback water. Thus: thousands of millions of gallons of contaminated water will be present on the surface in the HVHF areas. This flowback will contain varying amounts of benzene [causes leukaemia, cancer and spina bifida], mercury [brain and kidney damage], arsenic [cancers], ethyl benzenes [respiratory disease, fatigue & headaches], toluene [birth defects & central nervous system damage] and volatile organic compounds [disrupts our endocrine system causing, lung, gut and reproductive disease]. There is no proven system in place to store or treat such vast quantities of toxic liquid and its risk to local residents’ health is obvious. No definitive plan or answer to this flowback water problem has yet been given by the HVHF industry to our Government.

HVHF wells have significant leakage/ integrity problems in both the short & long term. Percentage of leaking wells varies from 3-6% [in first two years], up to 50-75% over the lifetime of a well. The earthquakes triggered by fracking damage both the well casing and cement, further increasing well failure rates.

Cornell University study showed that fracking fluid and the flow back water interfere with the ability of soil to bond to and sequester pollutants such as heavy metals. Thus fracking fluids may release from soils an additional repository of contaminants that could migrate into ground water.

Many confirmed cases of drinking water contamination from fracking in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia & Texas, thus casting doubt on Industry view that this rarely or never happens. A Pennsylvania Court found a gas corporation guilty of contaminating a home owner’s drinking water, methane levels were 1,300 to 2,000 times higher than the baseline.

U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] study of groundwater pollution at HVHF site in North Dakota found that an area of 12 square miles was the result of a well casing failure. Another USGS report into fracking states ‘the knowledge of how extraction affects water resources has not kept pace with the technology’.

Oil & Gas operators generally opt for out of court settlements that include ‘non-disclosure’ agreements [gagging clauses]. This strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the media and health researchers and makes it difficult to challenge the claim that fracking has never tainted anyones water.

Investigative Journalists uncover at least 161 cases of water contamination from fracking between 2008-2012 in Pennsylvania.

Colorado State data reveals more than 350 instances of groundwater contamination resulting from more than 2,000 spills from oil & gas operators over five years.

Stanford University researchers document that fracking in shallow layers of bedrock, including those that serve as drinking water aquifers, is not uncommon. This is because the HVHF industry is exempt from the Safe drinking Water Act.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation fined $900,000 in 2011 for improper well casing & cementing that resulted in contamination of 16 private drinking water wells via underground migration of methane.

West Virginia EPA confirmed that three private drinking water wells were contaminated by a fracking company when it mistakenly drilled into its own well, resulting in benzene being detected in the drinking water at four times the legal maximum limit.

Pennsylvania EPA fine drilling company $4,500,000, in 2014, for contaminating groundwater due to leaking frack waste-water pits.

Cuadrilla [UK HVHF company] knew about problems with their well bore integrity but did not report this to the regulators. They also failed to carry out seismic surveys, as recommended, prior to their fracking. That frack triggered two earthquakes and damaged their well casing, increasing the risk of cement failure and thus leakage.

University of Missouri team tested chemicals used in one frack area. Of the 24 fracking chemicals tested, all 24 interfered with one or more hormone receptors in humans. There is no safe level of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.

Methane is at least 2,300% [& up to 3,300%] more potent as greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane leakage seriously worsens climate change. The Medical community now has very strong evidence that climate change has a serious negative impact on public health, and this impact will only worsen in the future if we don’t act. Methane leakage rate is averaging at least 8% from HVHF wells, up from 6% five years ago. Even at a 2 or 3% leakage rate methane is still more damaging for climate change over a 20 or 100 year time span than carbon dioxide.

The 2014 Public Health England [PHE] review stated that ‘the health risks [of HVHF] are low’. FFAN has compiled a detailed response to this PHE review [at our website] pointing out many serious shortcomings in the methodology used. UK government ministers are already trying to use the PHE draft review to over-rule legitimate public health concerns yet have only accepted one of the reports ten recommendations.

Professor Watterson [Professor of Public Health in Scotland] stated in relation to the PHE review: ‘There are major questions about how a government committed to a deregulatory and reduced regulatory agenda, along with chopping budgets – and the resulting major job losses in agencies that have oversight of environmental pollution – will be capable of guaranteeing that fracking companies operate safely. Also extraordinary is the [minister’s] unsubstantiated statement that the UK has the most robust regulatory regime for fracking. In other countries the exact chemicals used in fracking have been covered by commercial confidentiality and are not disclosed fully. So how can their risks be fully assessed and cleared for UK use?

HVHF is not the panacea it was hailed as five years ago. Human health is precious, dependent on clean air, clean water and stable communities. Health is very costly to fix once broken. Our true wealth is our health. Our true assets are our clean environment and healthy children. Our future health and economic stability should not be jeopardised by short term gain for a few. The economic cost to the NHS to manage the fallout of HVHF ill health in the Northern Ireland population may far outstrip HVHFs limited economic benefit.

Dr Zucker, Acting Commissioner for Health, presented the New York State Public Health Review on HVHF in Dec 2014. At that presentation he stated “I asked myself ‘would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either”. Let us also have the courage to state clearly & loudly that the people of Fermanagh and neighbouring Counties insist that we too, live in a community free from the threat of fracking.

Dr. Carroll O’Dolan MRCGP [Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners] – FFAN Health spokesperson Feb 2015


PDF: HVHF conference Feb 2014

Powerpoint Presentation: Health & HVHF powerpoint Feb 2015

Fracking wastewater spill in north dakota

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) has revealed that a spill of fracking wastewater, otherwise known as brine, has been released been notified of a
produced water (brine) release in Renville County approximately 5 miles southeast of Tolley.

Renville County, North Dakota
Renville County, North Dakota

The fracking company responsible, Enduro Operating, has reported that 25 barrels of oil and 820 barrels of brine were released –  70 barrels of which left the oil well location, whilst the remaining released 750 barrels contained on site.

The view the North Dakota press release in full, click here.

Taxpayers to pay for fracking pollution

The Guardian news paper has just revealed that in the event that fracking companies go bankrupt, the costs incurred for pollution to the environment will be burdened onto the UK taxpayer.

Cuadrilla shale gas drilling rig is set up for 'fracking', Weeton, Blackpool, Lancashire, in March 2012. Photograph: Alamy
Cuadrilla shale gas drilling rig is set up for ‘fracking’, Weeton, Blackpool, Lancashire, in March 2012. (Image source: alamy)

Normally, fracking companies would take out a bond as an insurance policy in the event of environmental pollution. However the need for bonds has been rejected by Minister of the Environment Dan Rogerson, who stated:

“We believe that the existing regulatory framework is fit for purpose for the exploration and exploitation of onshore oil and gas activities. There are a great number of checks and controls available to us to ensure that operators comply with the requirements of their permits and deal with the wider pollution risks without adding to existing regulation.”

To read the guardian article in full, click here.

Perspective: living beside a fracking site

The Guardian have recorded a short documentary showcasing a families that live within a mile beside unconventional hydraulic fracturing wells. Their first-hand account of the individuals involve reveal a great sense of insecurity as they were forced to come to terms with sickness, flaring, light pollution, trucks, air and water pollution, explosions, fires mistrust and more.

Veronica Kornvall, as featured in the documentary short
Veronica Kornvall, as featured in the documentary short

To view the informative and eye opening video short, click here.

XTO Energy fined $5.3million

On 22nd December 2014, XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil and the U.S’s largest natural gas company, has been fined by the US EPA $2.3 million for Clean Water Act violations related to its unconventional shale gas extraction activities in West Virginia. The US EPA fined XTO a further $3 million for restoration costs, bringing the final total charged to XTO, to $5.3 million. There is a very good reason why we say XTO have been fined the $5.3 million for unconventional shale gas extraction activities, and not fracking activities.

Due to the Bush-era legislation known as the Halliburton Loophole, fracking companies are seldom held accountable by federal agencies when it comes to water pollution, as the Halliburton Loophole legally exempts the fracking process from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. As a result, the US EPA are rendered impotent when it comes to regulating the actual fracking process and the chemicals used for injection into the ground.

However, what the US EPA have done, is fined XTO for environmental violations that exist outside the fracking process and the Halliburton loophole, in particular, violations committed by XTO which included the dumping of sand, dirt, rocks and other toxic fill materials into local streams and wetlands within the state of West Virginia, without a permit. It is these charges which are in violation of the Clean Water Act.

In total, XTO committed unauthorised discharges of dredged materials at eight sites across West Virginia, within Harrisburg, Marion and Upshur counties and the discharges are associated not with the hydraulic fracturing process (aka fracking), rather to related construction processes of well pads, freshwater pits, access roads, a pipeline, a compressor station pad.

XTO Activities and Operations in West Virginia, including Harrison, Marion and Usphur Counties which were included in the $5.3million settlement by the USEPA.
XTO Activities and Operations in West Virginia, including Harrison, Marion and Usphur Counties which were included in the $5.3million settlement by the USEPA.

And it is these environmental violations which have polluted approximately 5,300 linear feet of water streams and 3.4 acres of wetlands in West Virginia.

To view the US EPA settlement against XTO Energy in full, click here.

Previously, XTO Energy were charged with in early January 2014 for expelling tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste water at a Pennsylvania drilling site in 2010.

Concerned health professionals of New York release fracking compendium

The Concerned Health Professionals of New York just released a compendium that compiles a significant body of scientific, medical and journalistic findings that highlight the experienced health risks associated with the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction.

CHPNY

One of the most thorough reports of its kind, the compendium draws upon scientific evidence and experience from across the globe, including USA, Canada and Australia, where Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction has been most predominant, drawing upon information provided by medical journals such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Medical Journal of Australia.

Topics covered by the compendium include:

  • Air Contamination
  • Water Contamination
  • Engineering Problems
  • Radioactive releases
  • Occupational Health and Safety Hazards
  • Noise pollution, light pollution and stress
  • Earthquakes and Seismic Activity
  • Abandoned wells
  • Flood risks
  • Threats to Agriculture and soil quality
  • Threats to the Climate
  • Inaccurate job claims, increased crime
  • Inflated oil and gas reserves
  • Medical and scientific calls for more study

A compilation of studies and findings from around the globe, the compendium provides irrefutable evidence of the risks, harms, and associated negative trends demonstrated by the process of Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction, a process earmarked for County Fermanagh.

To read the compendium in full, click here.