Press statement in advance of Stormont debate

Over this past decade our particular communities have experienced first hand various attempts at oil and gas exploration in Northern Ireland, and the government sector’s system-wide inability to cope with its complexity. Now that the UK is signed up to the Paris Agreement and has made a net-zero carbon commitment, it is time to suspend, not just review, fossil fuel development.

In the interests of protecting public health and the environment from the polluting impacts of this industry, meeting our climate change obligations, and so that other communities don’t have to experience the same stress and disruption that we have, we have come together to call for the Assembly to:

“acknowledge its responsibility to protect public health and the environment and call on the Executive to instigate an immediate moratorium on petroleum licencing for all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons until legislation is brought forward that bans all exploration for, drilling for and extraction of hydrocarbons in Northern Ireland.”

The motion builds on the 2015 Strategic Planning Policy Statement presumption against the exploitation of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction in Northern Ireland introduced by Mark H Durkan, and recognises the moratoria, in various forms, on fracking in England, Scotland and Wales and the ban on fracking in the Republic of Ireland.


Statement issued on behalf of Belcoo Frack Free, LAMP Fermanagh, Protect Our North Coast, Stop The Drill Campaign, Ballinlea Residents Group, Friends of Woodburn Forest, Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network, Love Leitrim and Safety Before LNG.

The impact of Fracking on Health: an overview Sept 2020 Version 2.1

The information below is drawn from the CHPNY compendium. 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 12-18 months and is ‘open access’ to all, both researchers & public. The first edition in 2014 was 70 pages, it is now more than 360 pages of research.

Fracking in all its different names & guises is used to extract petroleum products, usually methane gas, from underground rocks, often shale or sandstone. It is very damaging to the environment but is especially damaging to human health. Two of the more common names are HVHF [high volume hydraulic fracking] or UGEE [unconventional gas exploration & extraction] all amount to the same thing.

Below is summarised a small fraction of points from current compendium which covers 16 major topics relating to HVHF. A full read of all fracking’s’ negative impacts is both very long and very shocking. The Public Health section, pages 155 to 172, reveals a litany of never-ending and wide-ranging disasters inflicted upon hundreds of communities; everything from increased road traffic accidents to higher rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea. I begin with the conclusion from the current [June 2019] sixth edition:

‘ All together, findings to date from scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations combine to demonstrate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, human health, public safety, community cohesion, long-term economic vitality, biodiversity, seismic stability, and climate stability.

The rapidly expanding body of scientific evidence compiled and referenced in the present volume is massive, troubling, and cries out for decisive action. Across a wide range of parameters, from air and water pollution to radioactivity to social disruption to greenhouse gas emissions, the data continue to reveal a plethora of recurring problems and harms that cannot be sufficiently averted through regulatory frameworks. There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly and without imperilling climate stability upon which public health depends. The only method of mitigating its grave harm to public health and the climate is a complete and comprehensive ban on fracking.

In closing, we cite comments by epidemiologist Irena Gorski, co-author of the 2019 review of fracking’s health concerns published in the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Global Public Health. Her words speak for all who have contributed to this Compendium:

What we found pushes back against the narrative we often hear that say we don’t know enough about the health impacts yet. We have enough evidence at this point that these health impacts should be of serious concern to policymakers interested in protecting public health….As a fossil fuel, natural gas extraction and use is contributing to climate change, of course. But before conducting this study, I didn’t realize the amount of evidence we have that it may be even worse than coal. We included this in our study because climate change has its own contributions to health impacts. These indirect impacts will take longer to appear than the direct health impacts, but they have the potential to be significant.’

Air pollution

Infant deaths rose six fold in Unitah, Utah over a three year period after the advent of fracking in the area. ‘We know that pregnant women who breath more air pollution have much higher rates of virtually every adverse pregnancy outcome that exists’. {p171}

Lower birth weight and increased premature births [both predictors of increased risk of lifelong ill health] associated with mothers living near fracking sites; cause- air pollution. {p171}

Increased congenital heart defects [and possibly neural tube defects] if mother lived within ten miles [16km] of fracking area. {p171}

Colorado researchers found that BTEX [benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene] four common air pollutants from fracking operations can interfere with human hormones even at levels below the recommendations. BTEX cause sperm abnormalities reduced foetal growth, heart and lung disease. {p57}

281% predicted increase in Volatile Organic Compounds [VOCs; known carcinogens and neurological disruptors] due to HVHF in Eaglesford, Texas. {p62}

Review of existing data on air pollutants from fracking operations ‘support precautionary measures to protect the health of infants and children’ {p54}

The John Hopkins University discovered that asthmatic patients are 1.5 to 4 times more likely to suffer an asthma attack if living close to a fracking site compared to people living further away. The study was praised by an independent scientist for its “rigorous research methods”. {p164}

91% increase in thyroid cancer in people living near shale gas developments. {p163}.

Elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons found near frack sites. These hydrocarbons are linked to cancer risk, respiratory distress and poor birth outcomes. {p49}

Helicopter survey reveals that methane & VOC leakage at well heads much higher than found in earlier audits. An Engineer given his opinion on study stated ‘It makes regulation very difficult. If you have all these possible sites where you can have leaks, you can never have enough inspectors with all the right equipment being in all the right places at all the right times. It is too complex a system’. {p54}

University of Maryland study shows that fracking can pollute air hundreds of miles downwind of well pads. {p58}

Dangerous levels of benzene in air around fracking sites; Health Official states ‘The concerns of the Public are validated’. {p64}

American Lung Association states air quality in rural areas close to fracking sites now worse than air quality in urban areas. {p65}

Research estimates total annual VOC emissions at fracking sites are equivalent to 100 million cars [USA currently has 150M cars on its roads]. {p63}

University of California meta-analysis of 37 peer reviewed studies on air pollutants associated with fracking identified 61 hazardous pollutants. These pollutants are all either known to [or suspected to] cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm or other serious health effects. {p46}

The Colorado School of Public Health showed an increased risk of ill health, both cancer & non-cancer, of people living near frack pads. {p66}

Parts of Utah, previously with pristine air quality, now have levels of smog and pollution that rival downtown Los Angeles. {p60}

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’. {p59}

For people living within 160m of a frack pad/well lifetime cancer risks were eight times higher than the EPA’s [United States Environmental Protection Agency] upper threshold. Elevated levels of benzene and alkanes were of particular concern. {p49}

Water Pollution

HVHF wells have significant leakage/ integrity problems in both the short & long term. Percentage of leaking wells varies from 5% [immediately], to 50+% at 15 years {p119/124}. The earthquakes triggered by fracking damage both the well casing and also the cement, further increasing the well failure rates {p123/124}. Industry has no solutions for rectifying this chronic problem. Polluted frack waste water, usually tens of millions of litres per frack pad, is lost long term to the hydrologic cycle {p168}. Leaking wells also allow methane to directly enter the atmosphere and exacerbate climate change.

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. {p107}

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. {p107}

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. {p109}. 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. {p108}

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’. {p110}

Frack wastewater is the flow back water that returns back up the well after it has been has been fracked. The volume is usually between 5 to 10 million litres, per well fracked. There may be ten to 16 wells per frack pad and each well can be fracked several times. This huge volume of highly contaminated frack wastewater is a very serious pollution hazard. “There is no known solution for the problem of fracking wastewater. It cannot be filtered to create clean drinking water, nor is there any safe method of disposal. Recycling is an expensive, limited option that increases radionuclide levels of subsequent [more concentrated] wastewater. Underground reservoirs that receive fracking wastewater via injection into disposal wells, a practice that is linked to earthquakes, are reaching capacity in many regions in the United States.” {p69}

EPA report demonstrates that a HVHF well that was fractured at 1300m [4,200 feet] contaminated a water supply only 120m [400 feet] from the surface. This dispels the myth that HVHF cannot cause contamination more than 500m away. {p116}

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 anyone’s water. {p112}

Stanford, Duke & Ohio State joint assessment of fracking data shows that vertical fractures can propagate to over 600m upward, thus risking contaminating any water sources. The planned area in Fermanagh will be shallow fracking. {p93}

EPA concedes that insufficient baseline drinking water data & lack of long term systematic studies limited the power of its findings; meaning the contamination the EPA found near fracking sites could be easily denied by the Industry. {p95}

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. {p106}

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. {p102}

Pennsylvania EPA fine drilling company $4,500,000, in 2014, for contaminating groundwater due to leaking frack waste-water pits. {p103}

Public Health

MVC [motor vehicle collisions], including fatal MVCs up by 50% since fracking boom began, especially on rural roads in fracking areas. More than 27% of fracking trucks operating with potentially life-threatening problems such as defective brakes. {p170}

An Ohio ‘Quality of life survey’ of residents living near UGEE development, 100% of respondents had experienced stress issues due to fracking, these included; fear of environmental harm, dangerous encounters with fracking lorries and divisions in within the community. {p174} Stress in all its forms is widely recognised as a risk factor for many adverse effects including heart attacks and strokes.

Pennsylvania study showed more than 50% of people living near fracking sites were stressed; witnessing corruption, complaints being ignored and being denied information or given false information. {p179}

Researchers in Pennsylvania found more than 50% of people living near fracking sites could not sleep properly due to noise of operations; excess noise is known to increase the risk of hypertension and heart disease. {p173}

John Hopkins School of Public Health study found that indoor radon levels in Pennsylvania homes rising since 2004 when fracking arrived in State; radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer worldwide, after smoking. A Geochemist warned “Once you have a release of fracking fluid into the environment you have a radioactive legacy. {p130, p132} Fermanagh already has one of the highest levels of background radon levels in the British Isles and it is thus a significant health risk; any further increase in radon would be very detrimental to public health, specifically increasing the cases of people developing lung cancer.

Duke University researchers found water contamination from ‘spills’ was remarkably persistent in the environment. The bigger the spill, the higher the radioactivity level. {p129}

University of Pittsburgh study linked low birthweight infants with fracking in three Pennsylvania counties. Low birth weight is a leading cause of infant mortality. {p167}

Increase in hospital admissions seen for cardiology and cancer for people in Pennsylvania living near fracking wells. No such increase in health problems were observed in a control county with no fracking industry. {p166}

North Dakota HIV/AIDS cases double between 2012-2014, Director of disease control attributes this to the ‘man camps’ and human trafficking for prostitution associated with the fracking industry. {p169}

Yale University found that county’s with high shale gas drilling levels had a 20% increase in syphilis and gonorrhoea rate. These rates of infection continue to climb even after the workers leave. {p159}

Hospital Emergency Department use up by over 300% and ambulance calls up more than 200% since arrival of fracking industry in North Dakota. {p170}

Climate Change

The IPPC [The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] state that methane is 86 times more potent at trapping heat [greenhouse gas] than carbon dioxide over a twenty year period {p260}. 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 {p261/262}. Even if a very low leakage rate for methane of 2 or 3% was even achievable, methane would still be much more damaging for climate change over the medium [20 year] or long-term [100 year] time span than the carbon dioxide produced by coal fired power stations. Thus both need to be phased out as soon as possible.


Dr. Carroll O’Dolan
MRCGP
General Practitioner.

Health Spokesperson for FFAN [Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network] www.frackaware.com

Tom White from ‘Belcoo Frack Free’ summarises the issues

Below is a video from Tom White, from ‘Belcoo FrackFree’ who has kindly allowed FFAN to share it as it summarises the issues involved and the plan of action.

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL MLAs AND ASK THEM DIRECTLY WILL THEY SUPPORT THE STORMONT MOTION TO BAN HYDROCARBON EXPLORATION/EXTRACTION IN NORTHERN IRELAND. REQUEST THEIR ANSWER IN WRITING [EMAIL]. IF THE MLA SAYS THEY WILL NOT SUPPORT THE MOTION, ASK FOR THEIR REASONS,ALSO IN WRITING.

Objection to Planning Application PLA2/16 Template

Here’s a template for you to send your objection to Department for the Economy in regards to Planning Application PLA2/16:


As residents of Fermanagh, we wish to object in the strongest possible terms to the granting of a petroleum licence to Tamboran to explore for or carry out fracking in Fermanagh or anywhere else in Northern Ireland, for the following reasons:

  • The Threat – Fracking is a dirty, toxic, industrialised process which has been proved dangerous and unsuitable even for sparsely populated areas in the United States and Australia. No solution to the problems of leaky wells and waste water disposal has yet been found anywhere.
  • The Applicant – The companies involved in the fracking process take no responsibility for a subsequent clean-up. They find ingenious pseudo-legal ways, including insolvency, to walk away, leaving the wreckage to the community. Their claim to community involvement actually amounts to a combination of bribery of the weak and intimidation of objectors, dividing communities to the profit of the frackers.
  • Health – The existential health risks of fracking have been scientifically documented by the Concerned Physicians of New York State.
  • Agriculture – The reputational damage of fracking to food-producing agriculture, the principal economic activity in Fermanagh, would be permanent.
  • Landscape – One of the most beautiful landscapes in Ireland, which includes the UNESCO Geopark and many Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, would be permanently degraded by fracking.
  • Tourism – Fermanagh’s second most important economic activity would never recover from the known effects of fracking: visual degradation; pollution of its pristine waterways; and the endless lorry traffic on its country roads.
  • Jobs – Technical supervisors would be imported. The few jobs for local people would be limited to driving lorries and manual labour.
  • Climate Change – The UK Government has recently published its highly necessary policy and timetable to achieve zero carbon emissions. In the light of this, to grant a licence to produce a highly suspect fossil fuel would be nothing short of reckless.
  • Political responsibility – For all the above reasons, this matter must be treated with the utmost political seriousness. It would be totally improper, if not illegal, for it to be shuffled through by a civil servant in the temporary absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

[Your name]
[Your address]


Send via Email to: minerals@economy-ni.gov.uk

Send via Post to: Department for the Economy, Minerals and Petroleum Branch, Room 9, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3SB

Deadline: 5th July 2019

FRACKING in Pennsylvania, Butler County (Just North of Pittsburgh)

Below is a typical monthly roundup of events relating to Fracking published by the excellent local anti-fracking group Marcellus Outreach Butler (www.marcellusoutreachbutler.org) – it reflects daily life in an active fracking area. By understanding what life is like in these damaged communities, we will be better informed when it comes to dealing ‘again’ with the pressures of shale gas extraction in Co. Fermanagh.

Butler County Well Count

  • Total Number of Wells: 625
  • Total Well Pads: 205

Around the County

CONNOQUENESSING TWP(Township)—Connoquenessing Elementary School was evacuated on April 17 due to an odor of natural gas in the building. The students were evacuated at 10 AM and sent to the Intermediate High School in Butler Township. Peoples TWP was called to find the source of the leak, but inspectors were unable to find any leaking gas lines in or around the building. Peoples blamed the odor on nearby fracking operations and declared that it was safe (?) for students to return to the school, which they did at 1:15 PM. The distinct rotten-egg smell of natural gas is not naturally present in the gas, but rather is a chemical called mercaptan that is added before being sent into residential lines. However, Duquesne University biologist Dr. John Stolz says that some of the compounds present in “wet gas,” which is what lies under Butler County, give off a similar odor, so it is more than plausible that fracking is responsible. Rex Energy’s Shipley well pad is located a mere 1,750 feet from the school in Connoquenessing borough.

BUTLER TWP—Residents have recently reported hearing loud noises, seemingly coming from nowhere. Following an on-the-ground report on April 14, it was determined that the noise is emanating from the AK Steel A pad on Schaffner Road, located between the AK Steel plant and the Highfield neighborhood. The XTO pad, located on a property zoned single-family residential and surrounded by houses, is currently in the fracking stage. Residents over a mile away can hear it, likening the sound to a freight train going past. The noise is still occurring as of this writing.

PROSPECT BORO—XTO applied for permits for the first well pad within borough boundaries on April 18. The Coretsky well pad would be located on Crown Hill Road, just west of Route 528, south of the intersection of 528 and 488. If approved, the well pad would house two wells. It will be less than one mile from Moraine Elementary School and downtown Prospect.

WINFIELD TWP—Two new well pads were permitted in the township at the end of March, both on Marwood Road. The first, permitted on March 21, is the PER W34 pad, located just east of Spiker Road on Marwood. It will house one well. The other, permitted on March 23, is the PER W32 pad located on Bear Creek Road just south of Marwood and will house two wells. Both pads belong to Penn Energy.

SLIPPERY ROCK TWP—MOB hosted an electric car show on April 21 as part of the Macoskey Center’s Earth Fest at the center on SRU’s campus. Throughout the day, a Chevrolet Volt, a Chevrolet Bolt, a Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, a Chrysler Pacifica Plug-in Hybrid minivan, a Tesla Model 3, two Tesla Model S’s, and even a 2003 Toyota RAV-4 EV were on hand for visitors to sit in and learn more about.


Across Penn’s Woods

COUDERSPORT—JKLM Energy has withdrawn from a controversial frack-waste treatment plant at the headwaters of the Allegheny River in Potter County. The Pittsburgh-based company had proposed a plant next to the Coudersport municipal sewage plant that would have “treated” wastewater produced by fracking, and then release it into the Allegheny River, which at that point is no wider than our own Connoquenessing Creek. The Allegheny turns north and heads into New York for about 15 miles before turning back into Pennsylvania. The Seneca Nation reservation occupies almost the entire length of the New York part of the river, and they objected fiercely to the plan, which would have threatened their drinking water. JKLM’s voluntary withdrawal came after Coudersport borough council rejected the plan. Read more here.

PENN-TRAFFORD—A citizen’s group in Westmoreland County has filed suit to reverse a zoning ordinance passed in 2016 by Penn Township, Westmoreland County that designated special “mineral extraction overlays.” Protect PT has challenged the ordinance in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court under Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which guarantees environmental rights to the citizens of the commonwealth. Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, an environmental engineer from Cornell University, was among the witnesses called by Protect PT, as were Dr. Ned Ketyer, a Pittsburgh pediatrician, and Tom Daniels, a land use expert from the University of Pennsylvania. Read more here.

LANCASTER—A new Franklin & Marshall College/StateImpact Pennsylvania poll shows that more people are opposed to fracking in Pennsylvania than in 2014. The new poll shows that 50 percent of respondents, no longer a majority, support fracking in Pennsylvania, while 42 percent do not. However, 55 percent said that the environmental risks of fracking outweighed its potential economic benefits, while only 30 percent said the economic benefit outweighed the risk. Read more here.

MARIETTA—704 pounds of dynamite was stolen from a construction site for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lebanon County. Williams Partners, which is building the highly-contested pipeline in eastern Pennsylvania, reported that 16 cases of dynamite and 400 blasting caps were stolen during the weekend of April 14-15. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is investigating and has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Read more here.


See the Marcellus Outreach Butler website for much more detailed information on the effects of unconventional shale gas extraction and fracking in Pennsylvania.

Of mice, cows, men and sperm counts

A report published October 2015 entitled ‘Endocrine-Disrupting Activity of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Adverse Health Outcomes After Prenatal Exposure in Male Mice’, has stated that there is a possible reduction in reproductive health in both humans and livestock as a result of significant exposure to chemicals related to high volume hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE).

One must ask:

‘Can you really take the results of a scientific study involving lab mice, and confidently state that the same results that happened to the mice, are guaranteed to apply cows and humans?’

Well, the answer is no. You can’t, becasue mice, livestock and humans are different species of animal. We have different biological systems from one another. Just because something can negatively affect a mouse, it will not hold as guarantee that it can negatively affect a cow or a human. In other words, just becasue I like eating cheese, it does not hold that I will get caught in a mouse trap. And yet, be it mouse, cow or human, were you to cut off our heads, as organisms, we would all die. So, you do need to be able to investigate what will and won’t affect us in the same manner. In fact, there are parallels to this situation with lab mice and fracking chemicals, and the miners of yester year who brought canaries down the mines with them. The canaries acted as an indicator that there may be risk of harm to human health.

The results form teh paper were taken from experiements run on C57BL/6 Mice (image source: gdmlac.com)
The results from the paper were taken from experiments run on C57BL/6 Mice. For more information on their characteristics, please click the image source link. (image source: gdmlac.com)

Hence, ethically, in relation to fracking chemicals, it is easier to test an experiment out on a mouse, and if there are adverse effects, you can knock on the scientific door that asks if these same harms could affect humans and our agricultural livestock. The study states:

“Oil and natural gas operations have been shown to contaminate surface and ground water with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. In the current study, we fill several gaps in our understanding of the potential environmental impacts related to this process.”

In particular, the study:

  • measured the endocrine-disrupting activities of 24 chemicals used and/or produced by oil and gas operations.
  • quantified the concentration of 16 of these chemicals in oil and gas wastewater samples.
  • assessed reproductive and developmental outcomes in male C57BL/6J mice after the prenatal exposure to a mixture of these chemicals.

The study found that 23 of 24 of the oil and gas related chemicals inhibit the estrogen, androgen, glucocorticoid, progesterone, and/or thyroid receptors within the lab mice. For the lab mice, this led to decreased sperm counts and increased testes, body, heart, and thymus weights and increased serum testosterone in male mice. Hence:

23 out of 24 oil and gas related chemicals, when working in concert within their bodies, led to multiple organ system impacts within the lab mice.

Will these results hold true for humans exposed to the same chemicals? Well, the only sure way that we can find out is by running the same experiment on human test subjects. If you thought that laboratory experiments on mice is unethical, then surely you will hold that running laboratory experiments on human test subjects is highly unethical.

What is important to note is that no community should risk exposing local members of their community to the multiple organ system impacts that were found to affect reproductive and biological systems in these lab mice.

It really is for industrial corporations and governments to prove that humans and livestock will not be negatively affected by exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals.

In other words, the precautionary principle must be applied.

If your community is exposed to these chemicals, and the reproductive abilities of local livestock and humans are negatively affected, then you must ask:

  • What do we do to reverse this within the affected individuals?
  • If we can’t reverse the harm done, then what can we actually do?

Humans are not laboratory mice, and we don’t like getting caught in mouse traps. We should investigate the harmful affects of fracking chemicals further, before committing our communities for future generations to a process that may prove harmful to our human health. For, if these negative effects once experienced, cannot be reversed, then we will find ourselves caught in a trap from which we cannot escape.

Stay connected with the Fermanagh Fracking Awareness Network (FFAN) viaFacebook, twitter. Furthermore, you can view our blogs pictorially on Pinterest.

Remember: More research must be done to rove that fracking chemicals are safe to human and agricultural health. Communities must demand that the precautionary principle be applied by fracking companies and governments.

Please leave you comments below. Thank you, FFAN.

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

New York State Department of Health Completes Review of High-volume Hydraulic Fracturing

Acting DOH Commissioner Zucker Recommends Activity Should Not Move Forward in New York State

DEC Commissioner Martens Will Issue a Findings Statement Early Next Year to Prohibit High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing.

ALBANY

ALBANY, N.Y. (December 17, 2014) – The state Department of Health has completed its public health review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and Acting DOH Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker recommended that high-volume hydraulic fracturing should not move forward in New York State. Dr. Zucker announced his findings and recommendations today at a Cabinet Meeting in Albany.

“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said Dr. Zucker. “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. 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.”

In 2012, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens asked the DOH Commissioner to conduct a review of the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement for High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (SGEIS). Dr. Zucker’s report fulfills that request.

As a result of Dr. Zucker’s report, Commissioner Martens stated at the Cabinet Meeting today that he will issue a legally binding findings statement that will prohibit HVHF in New York State at this time.

“For the past six years, DEC has examined the significant environmental impacts that could result from high-volume hydraulic fracturing,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “DEC’s own review identified dozens of potential significant adverse impacts of HVHF. Further, with the exclusion of sensitive natural, cultural and historic resources and the increasing number of towns that have enacted bans and moratoria, the risks substantially outweigh any potential economic benefits of HVHF. Considering the research, public comments, relevant studies, Dr. Zucker’s report and the enormous record DEC has amassed on this issue, I have directed my staff to complete the final SGEIS. Once that is complete, I will prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State at this time.”

DEC will incorporate the findings of the public health review into the Final SGEIS, which will be released with a response to public comments early next year. A minimum of 10 days later, Commissioner Martens will issue the findings statement prohibiting HVHF. This action will conclude the State Environmental Quality Review Act process for HVHF.

DOH’s review found significant uncertainties about: the adverse health outcomes that may be associated with HVHF; the likelihood of occurrence of adverse health outcomes; and the adequacy of mitigation measures to protect public health. DOH’s report concludes that it will be years until science and research provide sufficient information to determine the level of risk HVHF poses to public health and whether those risks can be adequately mitigated. Given the red flags raised by current studies, absent conclusive studies that disprove health concerns, the report states the activity should not proceed in New York State.

In conducting its public health review, DOH reviewed and evaluated scientific literature, sought input from outside public health experts, engaged in field visits and discussions with health and environmental authorities in nearly all states where HVHF activity is taking place, and communicated with local, state, federal, international, academic, environmental and public health stakeholders. DOH’s review can be found at: http://www.health.ny.gov/press/reports/docs/high_volume_hydraulic_fracturing.pdf

At the Cabinet meeting, Governor Cuomo thanked the Commissioners and their respective departments for their work.

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via http://www.health.ny.gov/press/releases/2014/2014-12-17_fracking_report.htm

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.