Pennsylvania: yet another report on dangerous environmental and health impacts in the frack patch

Exactly three years ago, I blogged about Pam Judy in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. Pam's family experienced severe health symptoms after a compressor station was built on her neighbor's property, including nose bleeds, vertigo, mouth blisters, extreme headaches, fatigues, vomiting, and emergency room visits. Air sampling at the time detected toxic chemical compounds, including benzene, styrene, toluene, xylene, acetone, and more.

Fast forward to 2014 and Earthworks has just published a new report on inadequate enforcement of the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania. Among other things, the report concludes:

  • information gaps in PA data make it impossible to assess the extent of pollution to which anyone is exposed;
  • there is no consideration of cumulative impacts on health;
  • there is inadequate and inconsistent air and water testing;
  • "special protection watersheds" don't get any special protection;
  • oil and gas companies get special exemptions from toxic waste management rules on a regular basis;
  • well files have a lot of missing information,
  • only a small percentage of wells are inspected each year, and inspection information is often missing from well files;
  • complaints are often ignored.

There are a lot of details in the report, and I urge you to read it. Communities in Pennsylvania continue to suffer from the harms of oil and gas development in residential areas, and yet regulators continue to allow the industry to expand without adequate protections and enforcement in place.

The report also has an update on Pam Judy and her farm. In addition to the nearby compressor station, there are now "more than 35 drilled and producing wells within one mile."  Earthworks determined that two of these gas wells were the top two emitters of coarse particulate matter in Pennsylvania in 2011. Other wells near Pam's home are also emitting high levels of dangerous air pollutants. Pam reports that the compressor station is one of the top five industrial emitters of NOx and benzene in the county.

As Pam says, "our communities and quality of life has, and will continue to be, destroyed." Not much I can add to that.