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Jun 17 / Riverkeeper

Are fracking tragedies in Pennsylvania & West Virginia a preview for New York?

Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with which New York shares the Marcellus Shale deposit, have been quicker to embrace fracking than New York (so far). Tragic stories coming out of communities there are a possible preview of what’s to come for our state if fracking isn’t stopped.

An exploded gas well outside Moundsville, West Virginia created a 50-foot high flare that burned for days. ABC News reports that families in Dimock, Pennsylvania are getting ill from poisoned wastewater from fracking operations leaked into the water table:

“I was getting dizzy and almost blacking out. Sometimes I did black out,” says Pat Farnelli, a mother of eight who has gas wells are both sides of her property.

“My kids had been getting sick very badly all summer long with what seemed like a very heavy duty intestinal bug. You know the wicked stomach cramps, doubling over.”

Recently Riverkeeper representatives—including Chief Prosecuting Attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and board member Mike Richter and screen actor Marc Ruffalo—traveled to Dimock to visit folks whose lives have been permanently impacted from fracking operations near their homes.

Watershed Program Director Craig Michaels writes in a heartbreaking essay about the trip:

Even after working on this issue for two years, what we witnessed firsthand shocked us. We saw polluted well water and heard methane bubbling up out of a local well after a hydraulic fracturing operation polluted it. We saw countless heavy trucks barreling down rural roads not designed to handle this activity. We heard stories of the incredibly loud noise of 24-hour fracking operations, the intense lights which kept children up at night, numerous instances of unreported spills and accidents. In short, we saw the industrialization of a rural landscape.

This damage to the health and safety of communities is caused by private companies profiting from the extraction of resources and taxpayers are stuck paying with the cleanup, as Indiana University of Pennsylvania Professor Charles McCollester points out in an impassioned op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Like coal, which successfully resisted a severance tax, leaving taxpayers and volunteer associations to wrestle with the social and environmental damage wrought by more than a century of exploitation, gas drillers enabled by politicians expect Pennsylvania to remain the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax. These deep-drilled deposits of natural gas will be severed from the commonwealth forever without compensation and with little or no enforceable liability for the devastation wrought on the land, water and air.

In New York City, these costs could take the form of new billion-dollar filtration plants to make fracked water safe to drink. Right now the city is one of few in the country with unfiltered tap water because our watershed is so clean – a lot of New York’s chefs and cooks attribute this to their famous bagels, pizza, and other baked goods. Fracking in our watershed would not only cost New York City taxpayers billions and ruin the lives of our upstate neighbors – it would also make our drinking water less safe and threaten our favorite bagels, pizza, beer and coffee.

Riverkeeper’s Don’t Frack With New York’s Drinking Water campaign will feature business owners and families who rely on our clean water – stay tuned for more.

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