Fracking Campaign

Man-made earthquakes

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A group of state and federal agency employees came together with some of the biggest oil and gas developers to try to figure out how to stop injection wells from causing induced seismicity.  The group, now call the StatesFirst released a primer on September 28, 2015.

Citizens believe the idea that human beings can control earthquakes is absurd and an example of hubris. No one can guarantee that earthquakes can be kept small or non-damaging.  It is not known where all of the faults are that may become lubricated by disposal or injection well fluids, thereby possibly inducing a quake.  The quake problem is often associated with unknown faults, many of which cannot be adequately mapped since the cost to do so would be prohibitive.  Continuing on the path the oil and gas industry is on along with some of their allies is gambling with the public health, safety, and welfare. That is unacceptable to citizens.   There will be continued public outcry about the recklessness of allowing massive amounts of fracking waste to be injected under the places where we live – our homes and our communities.  This is too great a risk to public health, safety and welfare.  Human beings cannot control earthquakes with 100% certainty.  The risk of causing larger, damaging, even life-threatening earthquakes is too high a price to pay. As evidenced by numerous news reports, efforts to prevent man-made earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas apparently are not working. Earthquakes are continuing.

Agency officials are toying with earthquakes.  We find it disturbing that no impacted community groups are listed as participants in the production of this report, yet numerous oil and gas companies and only one environmental group were involved in developing this primer.

Attempts to stop the earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas, for example, are apparently not working to protect public health and safety.  In fact, Oklahoma, which has now surpassed California for earthquakes, just had two quakes on September 24, 2015 that police reported caused power outages.

If earthquakes are continuing in places where officials are trying to stop or “mitigate” them, why should the public have confidence that they can be protected from man-made earthquakes anywhere?

In the Youngstown, Ohio area, there are now three man-made earthquake sites related to injection wells or hydraulic fracturing operations instead of just the original site associated with the now-famous 4.0 magnitude New Year’s Eve quake on December 31, 2011.  The number of earthquake sites grew despite new state regulations, and a 7-mile moratorium, in an effort to control the quakes.  How many more earthquake sites might there be in Youngstown and the surrounding area if the state continues on the same misguided path it is currently following?

Just yesterday a 2.1 earthquake occurred in Harrison County, Ohio,  home to a large number of horizontally fracked wells. At this time we cannot say that the earthquake was caused by fracking but it was in close proximity to an area where in 2013 over 400 earthquakes occurred.

The truth is that the constant creation of millions of gallons of fracking waste fluid must stop. There is no good solution to where it will all go. How many man-made earthquakes with potential contamination of drinking water and other problems might be caused by misguided, inadequate attempts to handle massive amounts of waste fluids?  This is too risky for public health and safety.

Officials need to stop pretending that they can control earthquakes. They must protect the public health, safety, and welfare. They need to listen to the suffering and the voices of the many people who have earthquake damage in their homes that they themselves must try to pay for even though industry, who may have caused the quakes, should be held accountable legally, financially, and morally for any damage done.

Further concerns are:  What effect will quakes, even repeated smaller tremors, have on the integrity of the fracking or injection wells themselves?  How might this threaten drinking water supplies for families and communities?  How might this impact our aging infrastructure?

They do not emphasize a major risk factor in their equation, that being citizens and public health and safety.  We do not accept the thinking that it is an acceptable risk to cause earthquakes for the benefit of a few jobs tied to fracking.

CHEJ is working with community groups on fracking waste (including injection wells) who are planning a National Day of Action on Fracking Waste for  November 17th.  If you would like more information please contact us at info@chej.org

Wangari Maathai

Women Make The Difference In Action on Climate Change

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Greenbelt Movement in Africa

I just spent the last three days in St. Louis, Missouri with the group, Just Moms STL to help them develop a plan to put pressure on the elected representatives with the power and ability to help move families away from a horrible situation and clean up the burning radioactive dumpsite. This Superfund site and emergency situation has been ignored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for decades. In brief the recent study done by the State Attorney General’s office said they community could experience in 3 to 6 months a Chernobyl like event exploding and releasing radioactive wastes throughout the area.

The leaders are women with children, jobs, homes to care for that are leading this fight. But then most of the groups CHEJ works with are led by women 80% at our last count. Yet there is so little recognition of the women in the environmental moment, a frustration that I’ve felt for decades. Yes, my friend and fellow Goldman Prize winner rightfully received recognition but she’s the exception and her work, which continues today is critical to addressing climate change.

Returning home from my work with Just Moms STL, checking my e-mails I came across the article that was written by Tracy Mann from Earth Island. It’s worth a read because it says everything I would have said. Strange it came when it did, fate maybe. Below is an excerpt but the entire article is worth the read.

“In fact, women organizing to protect natural resources and develop community resilience is not a new phenomenon. In the 1970s a group of peasant women in the India threw their arms around trees to prevent the destruction of forests in Northern India in an action that came to be known as the Chipko, or Treehugger Movement. Led by Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, the Kenya-based Green Belt Movement mobilized rural women to plant trees to restore plundered forests, generate income and serve as an engine of empowerment. In the 1980s, American Lois Gibbs led the famous Love Canal protest in upstate New York to expose and rectify the toxic waste dump over which her town had been constructed. Her years-long struggle inspired her to organize women and people of color around the common interest of climate justice. Canada’s Tzeporah Berman has been on the frontlines of community-based movements against environmental threats since the 1990s when she was in the forefront of the Clayoquot Sound protests against the unconscionable clearcutting of temperate rainforest in Western Canada. More recently she has led acts of civil disobedience against the transnational pipeline and tar sands expansion.

The women mobilizing for September 29 may not yet be known as leaders or heroes, but the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action is one more potent opportunity to tell their stories. It’s an opportunity for global women to join hands, just as my mother and sister and I did 45 years ago, and take their rightful place at the front of the parade, as essential catalysts to solutions to our greatest of all challenges.”

To read the full article click here:

There Can Be No Meaningful Action on Climate Change Without Women

fracking

EPA Fails To Properly Regulate Fracking Waste

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CHEJ is part of a coalition that has filed an Intent to Sue with the US EPA for failing to protect low income communities from fracking waste. Learn more at Living on Earth.

Pyrro_Falling_On_Deaf_Ears-front-large

Where In The World Is Gina McCarthy?

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Has EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy totally written off oversight and action in contaminated communities and the Superfund program? Is she just turning a deaf ear to the cries for help?

McCarthy did visited Colorado after and EPA cleanup accidentally released a million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River, a tributary of the Colorado River turning the water orange color. That was so big, so bad, she just couldn’t ignore it.

McCarthy said about the accident, “It is a heartbreaking situation.” I can’t disagree with that but what about all the on-going toxic waste sites where children, hardworking tax paying families live and can’t even get a simple response or acknowledgement from her office?

I’ve never seen so many community being treated so poorly by EPA. This past week in Springfield, Ohio over 700 people turned out at a meeting to tell EPA “NO.” Even the Chamber of Commerce (not always standing with us) paid for buses to help people get to the EPA meeting to show EPA people are serious. State Senator Chris Widener (R) also called on EPA to remove hazardous. Quite loudly they said, “Dig it up and take it out!”  Did that get McCarthy’s attention?

EPA wants to dig up more than 2.8 million gallons of wastes that sits over the drinking water aquifer and put it into an adjunct hole, which also sits above the aquifer that provides drinking water to county families. The community has been fighting for years to get the wastes away from their drinking water source.

Ohio not alone. A deaf ear was turned to the folks in Birmingham, Alabama a low wealth community of color. Instead of listening to a very strong assessment by the federal health agency (ATSDR) that children are at serious risk in North Birmingham stating:

  • Past and current exposure to arsenic found in surface soil of some residential yards could harm people’s health.
  • Children are especially at risk. past and current exposure to lead found in surface soil of some residential yards could harm people’s health.
  • Swallowing this lead‐contaminated soil could cause harmful health effects, especially in children and in the developing fetus of pregnant women. long‐term exposure to PAHs found in the surface soil of some residential yards is at a level of concern for lifetime cancer risk.

EPA’s response is to tell parents to not let their children into their homes until they have taken their shoe and clothes off.

Does Administrator McCarthy really think this is the answer? Has she even talked to her staff about why they are handling this situation or others so poorly? I doubt it.

Missouri joins Ohio and Alabama in being ignored. St. Louis, MO almost every politician from federal Senator Blunt (R) to most recently the County Executive, has asked EPA and McCarthy personally to address the concerns of the burning landfill moving toward the radioactive waste landfill and cluster of childhood cancers. Yesterday a new report from the Attorney General’s office said the groundwater and, yes the trees around the site, are radioactive.

The community leaders Just Moms STL raised money through bake sales and traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with the administrator this past spring and she closed her door to them. She was there in her office and choose to ignore the mothers who came to talk with her.

I understand that Administrator Gina McCarthy has a full plate with Climate Change, Air Standards and so on but people are literally dying. Her office has only suggested that concerned public should look to the regional offices for help.  Unfortunately, regional offices don’t have the authority to open a Record of Decision or relocate temporarily or permanently families at risk.

Many are advocating a federal investigation on EPA and Gina McCarthy’s response or better the lack of response to serious toxic waste crisis. If you are interested in helping to advocate an investigative hearing let us know and we’ll connect you with others.

Gina McCarthy, enough is enough, please pay attention.

texasdrillingrig

New Study Highlights Reproductive Risks from Fracking Chemicals

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Could pollution from unconventional oil and gas drilling cause reproductive problems? Scientists at the University of Missouri are trying to answer this question. A study published yesterday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives assessed the research so far on endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing. The study presented research linking fracking to EDCs, and the authors recommended an increased focus on these compounds in assessing health risks from fracking pollution.

Endocrine disrupting compounds are a class of chemicals that can alter the delicately balanced endocrine system of the human body, interfering with processes involved in development and reproduction. Some EDCs prevent the endocrine system from carrying out normal functions, while others can mimic hormones naturally found in the body and cause increased endocrine activity. As the study authors note, EDCs are of particular concern because they can have effects at very low concentrations, especially during the early stages of development. Small doses of EDCs can cause drastic health changes, some of which can persist across generations.

One section of the study looked at the endocrine disrupting properties of individual chemicals in fracking fluid. Unfortunately, the identities of many of the approximately 1000 chemicals used in the fracking process are kept under wraps by industry, limiting the extent to which scientists can test any of the health effects they present. Of the chemicals the researchers were able to test, many had endocrine-disrupting properties. When the scientists assessed water samples from areas where drilling-related spills had occurred, they also found elevated endocrine disrupting activity. Chemicals involved in fracking processes are associated with reproductive effects, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and cancer, and several epidemiological studies cited in the paper found elevated risks for these problems in drilling-dense areas.

The study also focused on identifying gaps in our knowledge of EDCs in fracking chemicals. While our understanding of the impacts of individual chemicals is growing, we need to develop better methods for predicting and assessing how these chemicals might interact as part of a complex mixture, where the presence of multiple compounds could result in a more potent disruptive effect than that of one chemical alone. By studying concentrations of EDCs and their byproducts in people’s systems, we can determine what chemicals people are actually exposed to, and gather better information on whether these exposures are related to long-term health issues.

Overall, the study concluded that fracking health studies should include a significant focus on endocrine disrupting compounds. Among the many risks presented by fracking, exposure to complex mixtures of EDCs in the environment may prove to have extraordinary longterm effects.

Learn more:  http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2015/8/ehp.1409535.acco.pdf

springfield oh 700 people aug 27 2015

700 People Told EPA “Dig it Up -Take It Out”

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YES! The people of Clark County, Ohio showed up last night in force….

  • Their Health District attendance counters stopped at 650, with more people coming in the door.
  • US EPA’s Joan Tanaka said in all her 20 years’ work on Superfund sites, she had never seen such a huge crowd.

EPA’s purpose in coming to Clark County was to tell residents what information they wanted us to know….

  • They listened politely to too many power point slides that were unreadable, too many reassurances that were not believable, and too much talking that glossed over or avoided the real questions.

Their united purpose last night was to tell EPA what they wanted them to know–and boy did they do just that.

In summary the people were clear that they:

  • Do not and will not accept their proposed plan.
  • Want all hazardous wastes permanently removed from the Tremont City Barrel Fill.
  • Will continue to work with Ohio EPA and our elected leaders to change their remedy.
  • Do not trust EPA, their reassurances, or their ability to protect our health and water source forever.

Our preference last night was made very clear….We want permanent removal of all  hazardous wastes at the Barrel Fill.

U.S. EPA: Dig it up! Truck it out! Protect our water!

fracking smokey

Groups Threaten To Sue EPA Over Dangerous Fracking Waste Disposal

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 26, 2015

Groups File Notice of Intent to Sue EPA Over Dangerous Drilling and Fracking Waste

Call on Agency to Issue Rules for Handling and Disposal of Oil and Gas Waste

WASHINGTON, D.C.  (August 26, 2015) – A coalition of environmental organizations filed a legal notice with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today demanding regulations to stop oil and gas companies from dumping drilling and fracking waste in ways that threaten public health and the environment.

The groups filing today’s notice letter are the Environmental Integrity Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthworks, Responsible Drilling Alliance, San Juan Citizens Alliance, West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. The groups are calling on EPA to comply with its long-overdue obligations to update waste disposal rules that should have been revised more than a quarter century ago.

“We’re asking that EPA finally do what it found to be necessary back in 1988:  update the regulations for oil and gas wastes,” said Adam Kron, attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project.  “The oil and gas industry has grown rapidly since then, and yet EPA has repeatedly shirked its duties for nearly three decades.  The public deserves better protection than this.”

For example, EPA should institute stricter controls for underground injection wells, which accept two billion gallons of oil and gas wastewater every day and have been linked to numerous earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas. EPA should ban the practice of spreading fracking wastewater onto roads or fields, which allows toxic pollutants to run off and contaminate streams. And EPA should require landfills and ponds that receive drilling and fracking waste to be built with adequate liners and structural integrity to prevent spills and leaks into groundwater and streams.

“Oil and gas waste is extremely dangerous—yet the EPA admitted decades ago that federal rules are inadequate protect the public,” said Matthew McFeeley, attorney at NRDC.  “The scary truth is that right now this waste—complete with carcinogens and radioactive material—is being dumped irresponsibly or disposed of like everyday household garbage. Toxic waste should not be sent to run-of-the-mill landfills, sprayed on our roads and fields, or stored in open air pits.”

The groups notified EPA that they will file a lawsuit in 60 days unless the agency complies with its duty under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to review and revise the federal regulations governing how oil and gas waste must be handled and disposed.  RCRA requires that EPA review the regulations at least every three years and, if necessary, revise them.  The agency determined that such revisions of the regulations were necessary to address specific concerns with oil and gas wastes more than 25 years ago, yet has failed to meet its legal responsibility to act.

Over the last decade, the oil and gas industry’s fracking-based boom has produced a vast amount of solid and liquid waste. Each well produces millions of gallons of wastewater and hundreds of tons of drill cuttings, which contain contaminants that pose serious risks to human health. These include known carcinogens such as benzene, toxic metals such as mercury, and radioactive materials. However, the current RCRA rules that govern oil and gas wastes are too weak because they are the same rules that apply to all “non-hazardous” wastes, including household trash.

As a result, oil and gas companies are handling, storing, and disposing of these wastes in a number of troublesome ways. These include: spraying fracking waste fluids onto roads and land near where people live and work; disposing of billions of gallons of oil and gas wastewater in underground injection wells; sending the drill cuttings and fracking sands to landfills not designed to handle toxic or radioactive materials; and storing and disposing of wastewater in pits and ponds, which often leak.  Across the U.S., there are numerous instances of wastes leaking out of ponds and pits into nearby streams and the groundwater beneath, and operators often “close” the pits by simply burying the wastes on site.

Aaron Mintzes, Policy Advocate for Earthworks, said: “While it’s sadly common for states to fail to enforce their own oil and gas oversight laws, it is especially shameful that we should have to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, the only federal agency solely dedicated to protecting the environment and human health, to force EPA to fulfill its legal obligations to protect us from fracking pollution.”

The following are some examples of problems caused by the improper disposal and handling of fracking and drilling waste:

  • Ohio: Underground injection wells in Ohio accepted 22 million barrels of oil and gas wastewater for disposal in 2014, nearly four times the amount in 2009.  This has resulted in scores of earthquakes in the well-dense Youngstown area, with one well alone linked to 77 earthquakes.  The Ohio Oil and Gas Commission recently noted that regulations “have not kept pace” with the problem, and that (to an extent) both the state and industry are “working with their eyes closed.”
  • Pennsylvania: In May 2012, a six-million-gallon industrial pond holding fracking wastewater in Tioga County leaked pollutants, including arsenic and strontium, through holes in its liner into groundwater and a nearby trout stream.
  • West Virginia: Oil and gas wastewater dumped or spilled in rivers in West Virginia and Pennsylvania contains high levels of potentially hazardous ammonium and iodide, according to a study by Duke University scientists.
  • North Dakota: In January 2015, three million gallons of drilling wastewater spilled from a leaky pipe outside Williston, polluting a tributary of the Missouri River.  In July 2011, a pipeline serving a well in Bottineau County leaked over two million gallons of fracking wastewater, damaging twenty-four acres of private land.
  • Colorado: A contractor for a pipeline services firm gave a detailed account of sand-blasting pulverized waste buildup (called “scale”) from pipeline seals directly into the air outdoors without a filter, even though such dust can be radioactive and cause damage to lungs.
  • Across the Marcellus region: Over the past several years, landfills in states around the Marcellus shale formation—even in New York, where fracking is prohibited—have experienced increasing shipments of drill cuttings that contain high levels of radiation.  Many of the landfills do not test for radiation and do not have adequate controls to prevent the often toxic and radioactive “leachate” from seeping into groundwater.

EPA’s current regulations do not take into account the dangerous contents of oil and gas wastes or their unique handling and disposal practices.  Since 1988, the agency has acknowledged the shortcoming of its basic rules for solid waste management and has indicated that it needs to create enhanced rules tailored to the oil and gas industry. However, the agency has yet to take any action to develop these updated regulations.

“Improper handling of drilling waste threatens the health and safety of 3.5 million Pennsylvania residents whose drinking water comes from private wells,” said Barbara Jarmoska, who serves on the Board of Directors of the Responsible Drilling Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Lycoming County, Pa.  “It is past time for the EPA to put public and environmental health and safety first. EPA should revise existing regulations and specifically address issues relevant to the modern oil and gas industry.”

If EPA does not act within 60 days of today’s notice letter, the groups intend to ask a federal court to set strict deadlines for EPA to complete this long-needed update and strengthening of its regulations for oil and gas wastes.

“These are not your mom and pop wells of the 1980s, and their waste can no longer be ignored and listed as being non-hazardous,” said Teresa Mills, director of the Ohio field office for the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.  “For the agency to continue to classify millions of gallons/tons of hazardous material as non-toxic is mind-boggling.  The free ride for the oil and gas industry must come to an end, now.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Environmental Integrity Project: Tom Pelton, 202-888-2703 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org

Natural Resources Defense Council: Kate Kiely, 212-727-4592 or kkiely@nrdc.org

Earthworks: Alan Septoff, 202-887-1872 ×105 or aseptoff@earthworksaction.org

ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS:

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

The Environmental Integrity Project, based in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to advocating for more effective enforcement of environmental laws across the U.S.   The organization provides objective analyses of how the failure to implement laws increases pollution, and it holds governments and corporations accountable to protect public health. Learn more at www.environmentalintegrity.org and follow us on Twitter @EIPOnline.

Earthworks is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of mineral and energy development while promoting sustainable solutions. Earthworks stands for clean air, water and land, healthy communities, and corporate accountability. Website: https://www.earthworksaction.org/

The Responsible Drilling Alliance is a registered 501(c)(3) education and advocacy coalition, based in Pennsylvania that seeks to educate members and the public about deep shale gas drilling and all of its ramifications. The alliance advocates for federal, state and local regulations needed to protect our economy, environment, health, safety and quality of life. Website: www.rdaPA.org

The West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization is a statewide membership organization representing over 900 members, almost all of who live or own land in the state’s oil and gas producing counties. One of the organizations primary purposes is to educate its members and the public regarding surface owners’ rights and the environmental and other impacts associated with oil and gas exploration and production. Website: www.wvsoro.org

The San Juan Citizens Alliance is a Colorado-based grassroots organization dedicated to social, economic and environmental justice.  The alliance organizes San Juan Basin residents to protect the basin’s water and air, public lands, rural character, and unique quality of life while embracing the diversity of the region’s people, economy, and ecology. Website: http://sanjuancitizens.org/

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) mentors a movement, empowering people to prevent harm to human health caused by exposure to environmental threats. Through training, coalition building and one-on-one technical and organizing assistance, CHEJ works to level the playing field so that people can have a say in the environmental policies and decisions that affect their health and well-being. Website: http://archive.chej.org/

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Mary at Cin Park

I’m Dying of Cancer … It Was Preventable

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Mary has terminal lung cancer. She never smoked. But what she did do is walk around the local park every morning 24 laps. She believed that she was doing a good thing for her health, getting exercise and fresh air.

Unfortunately, the park that she walked daily was found to be contaminated with radioactive materials. It’s all part of the St. Louis historical work on the Manhattan Project. Mary attended the local meeting this past week about the cleanup of the radioactive wastes. Officials told her that they were not going to close the park that she once walked around daily because the children are back in school. The children, they believe wouldn’t spend much time in the park because of school so they didn’t need to take any  action.

Outraged that no one would close the park, the park she believed was the root cause of her now death sentence, Mary decided to do something about it.  Mary stood in front of the park with a sign that asked people to ask her why she was there, so she could tell them her story. How her grandson will never really know his Nana because she will be gone before they can do much together.

Today the park that Mary once walked laps around  is closed, because Mary wouldn’t leave the entrance with her yellow sign “Park Closed,”  until it was officially closed to innocent children and families. Thank you Mary.

The unfortunate truth is that it took a victim of radioactive exposure, a mother and grandmother to take a stand and protect the innocent from known harm. Where are our health protectors?  Where are the local, state and more importantly federal health authorities that have jurisdiction  and decision making powers when such decisions are needed. Who are they afraid of?

I’m am so tired of the federal government who has investigated and defined the cleanup and testing of this site and so many other sites, turn their heads when it comes to making a decision about protecting the public health. This is not the case when the public is placed at risk from food poisoning or a drug that proved to be more harmful than thought. Why are people exposed to radioactive wastes or toxic wastes the abandoned child? Why is there No Protection or Unequal Protection under government authorities when it comes to working class or low wealth families?

Time and time again we at CHEJ have seen that families are ignored when it comes to the real life threat of exposures to materials that will cause cancer and other diseases. It is well past time that the health professionals who took an oath “to do know harm” to step up to the plate and protect innocent families in the same manner, in the same time frame, as they do families exposed to food related or drug related health impacts.

To hear Mary speak to this issue you can connect to the Youtube video and begin at 1:59, but be sure to have a box of tissues handy to wipe your eyes because the personal testimony is very powerful and sad.

shallowfrack

Shallow fracking raises questions for water, new Stanford research shows

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Investigations show that drinking water sources may be threatened by thousands of shallow oil and gas wells mined with hydraulic fracturing.

Shallow fracking raises questions for water, new Stanford research shows

Stanford, California – The United States now produces about as much crude oil as Saudi Arabia does, and enough natural gas to export in large quantities. That’s thanks to hydraulic fracturing, a mining practice that involves a rock-cracking pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals.

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birmingham AL

Families Expose to Toxic Chemicals Lives’ Matter

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I am so frustrated and cannot understand how to win equal protection of health for all people.  I’ve been doing this work for over thirty years and observed that unlike food contamination or infectious disease, where health agencies move at the speed of light to keep people safe, when the source is toxic chemicals from a corporation, people are sacrificed.  I’m looking for ideas from those who read this blog.  Just recently we saw the call to action to protect public health  around the cilantro scare.

This week I received requests for help from local leaders CHEJ is working with that related to health studies and public health impacts from chemicals in their environment.

One study around hydro fracking, researchers found that pregnant women living near clusters of fracked wells were more likely to have babies with lower birth weights.  The second study found higher rates of hospitalization for heart conditions, neurological illness, and other conditions among people who live near fracking sites.

Those studies were not enough to stop fracking in the communities. In fact, health authorities said they believe it may not be the fracking at all – it could just be a random clustering of medical problems.

The third study was around a low wealth African American community in Birmingham, Alabama. Adjacent to the community is Walter Coke Facility that manufactures coke, toluene sulfonyl acid, produces pig iron from iron ore and more.

The Federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a study to determine the health risk to community families based upon exposures to arsenic, lead, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in residential surface soil and homegrown garden produce in the communities collected from November 2012 through January 2015.

ATSDR concluded that:

  • past and current exposure to arsenic found in surface soil of some residential yards could harm people’s health. Children are especially at risk.
  • past and current exposure to lead found in surface soil of some residential yards could harm people’s health. Swallowing this lead‐contaminated soil could cause harmful health effects, especially in children and in the developing fetus of pregnant women.
  • long‐term exposure (i.e., many years) to PAHs found in the surface soil of some residential yards is at a level of concern for lifetime cancer risk.

The agency’s recommendation was for parents to:

  • monitor their children’s behavior while playing outdoors and prevent their children from intentionally or inadvertently eating soil;
  • take measures to reduce exposures to residential soil and to protect themselves, their families, and visitors;
  • have their children tested for blood lead; and
  • for EPA to continue testing for arsenic and lead in the soil and continue with its plans to cleanup additional properties (patch quilt of clean up not community wide as though the wind won’t carry toxic dust from one yard to another) to reduce levels in residential surface soil.

There was no mention of what the polluter should do. No mention of relocating families from the area to safe housing somewhere else. There was no mention of health monitoring or a clinic for people, especially children who are exposed and sick.

What level of human tragedy, suffering and loss of life will it take to stop the poisoning of American people from toxic chemicals?  The ethics behind the two responses of food/infectious disease versus chemical threats to public health is unethical.  Families being exposed to toxic chemicals matter just as much as everyone else. It’s time our health agencies stopped treating them as sacrificial families to protect corporate profits.