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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Environmentalists blasted for ‘underreporting’ water toxins near fracking site

Environmentalists blasted for ‘underreporting’ water toxins near fracking site

Published: 4 November, 2012, 04:53
Edited: 4 November, 2012, 07:42


Environmental officials in Pennsylvania have come under fire for their tests on drinking water from a well near a natural gas drilling site. The site’s owners have been taken to court for allegedly poisoning residents.

The documents were released this week, as part of a lawsuit that 7 plaintiffs who live near a hydraulic fracturing or fracking site, are serving on the gas industry.

The residents claim that waste water from a nearby site has contaminated their drinking water.

Toxicology tests on the seven claimants, who live within a mile of the drill and waste water site in Amwell Township, Pennsylvania, found toluene, benzene and arsenic in their bodies.

Mr. Loren Kiskadden, one of the plaintiffs, says he has a number of health problems including nausea, bone pain, breathing difficulties and severe headaches. He says these symptoms are consistent with exposure to “hazardous chemicals and gasses through air and water”.

The chemicals used in fracking, particularly those found in the waste water which is pumped back into the ground under high pressure, are thought by some to lead to serious health problems.

A nurse who has firsthand experience of the health effects of the chemicals used in fracking, pointed to evidence linking the chemicals to cancer as well as liver, kidney and neurological damage in an article in the Baltimore Sun published in July 2012.

However, she also argued that as fracking has only recently taken off in many parts of the US, there is insufficient data on the dangers of the chemicals used. There is also lack of statutory or regulatory processes to ensure health and environmental safety.

There have been numerous reports in the US media about the dangerous health effects of fracking, including a case in Colorado last year, reported in Pro Publica – an independent, non-profit, investigative journalism organization – where Susan Wallace-babb suffered explosive diarrhea, vomiting, skin rashes, and lesions. All of her symptoms were linked to a nearby fracking site.

Right across Colorado, where hydraulic fracturing has become extensive, millions of tons of hazardous waste are dumped into open air pits. The pits have been shown to leak into ground water and give off chemical emissions, as the fluids evaporate.

Mr. Kiskadden’s water was subsequently tested by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in June 2011 and January 2012.

But Kendra Smith, Mr. Kiskadden’s lawyer, contends that the department purposefully avoided reporting the full results of its tests.

The department, she says, used a method to test for the poisons established by the Federal Protection Agency known as 200.7. Ms. Smith claims that of the 24 metals that the method tests for, only 8 were reported.

A scientist who carried out the tests, Tara Upadhyay, said in a deposition that her laboratory tested for a range of metals but reported on only some of them. She says that was because the Environmental Protection Department’s oil and gas division had not requested the results from the complete range of tests.  

She said that metals found in the tests but not reported included copper, zinc, nickel and titanium. All of these metals, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, may damage the health of people exposed to them.

Ms. Smith wrote on Thursday in a letter to Michael Krancer, Pennsylvania’s environmental secretary, that Upadhyay’s testimony “was quite extraordinary. She revealed what can only be characterized as a deliberate procedure [by the oil and gas division and the Bureau of Laboratories] to withhold critical water testing results.”

But Kevin Sunday, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department blasted Ms. Smith’s “outrageous contention” and accused her of failing to substantiate her argument that the department omitted key evidence in the tests.

“The battery of analyses we order during investigations are thorough and give us the results we need to make sound determinations, which we fully stand behind,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Sunday continued that officials only wanted to see the results that they deemed relevant to determining whether drinking water was being contaminated by shale gas drilling and production.

He added that the remaining metals were present in concentrations that were below federal standards for safe drinking water or didn’t have any standards attached to them.

The Amwell site is among those the Environmental Protection Department is using in its investigation into whether fracking affects ground and drinking water. 


New York faces ‘massive housing problem’ after Sandy, governor says

New York faces ‘massive housing problem’ after Sandy, governor says

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 12:44 PM EST, Sun November 4, 2012
Watch this video

Staten Island reeling from Sandy’s wrath

  • “People are in homes that are uninhabitable,” New York’s governor says
  • He describes it as a “massive housing problem”
  • Cold temperatures heighten health and other concerns in areas still without power
  • Mayor: Up to 40,000 people could need housing in New York City

(CNN) — Tens of thousands of New Yorkers left without heat after Superstorm Sandy hit may need to leave their homes as temperatures plummet, but it’s not clear where they’ll go.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 people could need housing in New York City alone, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday. Officials are working on coming up with a solution, he said, but they haven’t yet.

“I don’t know that anyone has ever taken this many people and found housing for them overnight,” he said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo described it as a “massive housing problem.”

“People are in homes that are uninhabitable,” Cuomo told reporters. “It’s going to become increasingly clear that they’re uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn’t come on.”

In Long Island’s Nassau County, some people have died while trying to heat their homes, County Administrator Edward Mangano said Sunday.

“We’ve very concerned about people sheltering in place without proper heat,” he said.

Official: Sandy-stricken areas will vote ‘come hell or high water’

Marathon canceled

For many, keeping warm isn’t simply a matter of turning on the heat, after Superstorm Sandy knocked out gas lines and electricity. Statewide in New York, 730,000 people had no power for a fifth straight day Sunday, Cuomo said.

Some people’s patience was running low, along with the temperatures.

Residents in the Rockaways, in Queens, vented their frustrations at Bloomberg as he toured the area Saturday. One woman yelled, “When are we going to get some help!” while a man talked about “old ladies in my building who have got nothing.”pplementing and, in some cases, dissatisfied with the government response, neighbors and volunteers from afar to hard-hit areas over the weekend to offer food, clothing and whatever else to those who are still cold and hungry.

“We covered two children with a blanket freezing and shivering here trying to get food last night,” Rockaway resident Lauren O’Connor told CNN affiliate NY1. “We said we had to do something.”

Dropping temperatures are only one concern the region faces, with the presidential election only days away.

Election officials in New York City will temporarily relocate or combine some poll sites due to damage from Sandy, the Board of Elections said in a statement Sunday.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has ordered early voting sites to offer extended hours through the weekend to encourage voters to make it to the polls.

For those who can’t make it to their voting precincts, Christie ordered election officials to allow displaced New Jersey voters to cast their ballots electronically by submitting a mail-in ballot application via e-mail or fax. Once approved, the voter will be sent an electronic ballot that can, in turn, be e-mailed or faxed back to the county clerk.

Long gas lines test patience

Powerless in New Jersey

The 900-mile-wide superstorm left a huge swath of damage when it hit the Northeast this week, claiming at least 111 lives in the United States and two in Canada after earlier killing 67 around the Caribbean.

Worst-hit New York state suffered 48 deaths, including 41 in New York City, authorities said. Twenty of those were in Staten Island.

As communities grapple with the human toll, the price of the damage is stunning: between $30 billion and $50 billion, according to disaster modeling firm Eqecat. That far exceeds the firm’s pre-storm estimate of $20 billion.

Officials said Sunday that relief was in sight for residents facing fuel shortages, with Defense Department plans to deliver generators and fuel to stations that need electricity and gasoline.

“We think things will be getting better. We know what a disaster this is,” New York Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday. “My wife waited two and half hours for gas yesterday and called me every half hour to see what I was doing about it, so this is an answer to her as well as to every New Yorker.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg said he plans to take the subway on Monday, a sign that transit is coming back.

New York City students will also go back to school Monday, Bloomberg said. Some students will be bused to other locations if their schools have been damaged and cannot reopen, he said.

The region may be in for more bad weather, with a weaker storm predicted for next week.

“As we have this nor’easter coming next week, we have to remain extremely vigilant about our neighbors,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Sunday.

While many residents are seeking disaster relief help from federal and state officials, she said, some of the state’s seniors may be afraid to leave their homes, even if they don’t have heat. And they may not know what resources are available.

“What I’m most concerned about right now are the people we haven’t met and we haven’t seen,” she said.

7 health risks in the wake of the superstorm

CNN’s Sarah Hoye, Josh Levs, Mariano Castillo, Greg Botelho, Faith Karimi, David Ariosto, Erinn Cawthon, Henry Hanks and Maria White contributed to this report