First off, I would like to thank you all for including me in this conversation about the dangers of natural gas hydraulic fracture drilling.
I first became interested in this problem during country drives through my old hometown and nearby woodlands in Fayette County, PA. In 2006 and 2007, I began noticing limestone paved hauling roads being constructed into old farms and forests. The roads were gated and marked with energy company names, notably Atlas Energy (now Chevron). I was dismayed by the destruction of these beautiful places, but my thought was, "Oh well, it's better than coal mining." Little did I know what the near future would hold, regarding this method of gas extraction.
In 2008, during bicycle rides through the southwestern PA countryside, I began noticing acrid biting odors and noises of gassing off of the well compressors. I was also seeing overland runoff of nasty red odorous liquids and began noticing tanker trucks and hoses at streams. I was concerned, but still, I didn't realize how destructive the practice of gas drilling had become.
Then, I visited my old hometown of Masontown, PA, and saw that the old dairy farms and corn fields surrounding the once pastoral little town had become natural gas tank fields and pipelines. It's heart breaking, but this was just the beginning.
In March of 2008, a well was drilled 200 feet from my 32 year old nieces drinking water well. In 2009, she fell into a coma and was rushed to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. She was in a comatose state for three weeks there at Allegheny General. The doctors hadn't a clue as to what caused her to enter this comatose state. Her liver failed and her lungs were filled with fluid and had to be drained. She had pneumonia along with impaired kidney and heart functions. Her heart valves had been encrusted by an unknown foreign body. The doctors were baffled and confused by all of this. After a stay in the hospital, her symptoms began to clear and her liver began to heal. The doctors called off the prescribed emergency liver transplant. It was determined that she would need a liver transplant by the time she reached the age of 50. She is now taking 25 pills a day and is scheduled to begin chelation therapy.
But stepping backward a bit in time, I was the first person in my family and the medical community to make the connection between her proximity to the gas well and her illness. I had been reading up on the correlation between natural gas wells and destruction of water resources and air, and the attendent illnesses that people, farm animals and wildlife had been suffering. A lightbulb lit over my head! My niece had been poisoned! And now nearly two years had passed since she fell ill. I immediately contacted my family, who thought I'd gone off the deep end. They really thought I was off my rocker and stopped communicating with me! I contacted my niece and insisted that she have her blood tested for the presence of Arsenic and Barium. A couple of months later her Arsenic test came back negative. I thought, oh wow, what now? Then, about two weeks after that I received a phone call from my niece. Her blood Barium level was 110 ug/L. That is 11 times the acceptable maximum allowable limit of 10 ug/L, and this was after a nearly two year absence from the well site!
I called the PA DEP, the EPA, shaletest.org, Downstream Alliance, CIRA & Associates, Earth Justice, the NRDC, Clean Water Action Network, ATSDR, Conrad Volz, Theo Colborn, Duke University's Robert Jackson, The Heidelberg Institute, Dickinson College, University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environment and Communities, and a list of others; all to no avail. No one seemed to be able, or willing, to step in and help, and still the doctors were not listening and were unaware of what to do next.
All of this time has passed and the medical doctors are just now beginning to see the correlation. My niece is now scheduled for chelation therapy. The doctors still don't know what was in the water and air that my niece was exposed to. The PA DEP and the EPA still refuse to test the well water which is responsible for poisoning my niece! We have no idea what host of substances entered her body!
And to top it all off, my niece's 12 year old daughter recently began to lose balance and fall down while walking. The doctors have tentatively diagnosed her condition as "Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis", but they are still unaware of her exposure to the drilling contaminants in the water she was drinking and the air she was breathing! She is taking a number of pills a day to deal with her arthritic pain and swelling. This is wrong!!
Oh, and here is one really twisted part of this whole mess. When I contacted the PA DEP, they immediately turned my name and phone number over to ATLAS ENERGY, who called me on my home and cell phones four times that same day!! Unbelievable! About a week later, I got a call back from the PA DEP Chief of Oil and Gas Operations, Vince Yantko, who informed me that.. 1) it was too late to get any meaningful test data from the site, 2) the property used heating oil, and 3) THEY WOULD DO A LIFESTYLE INVESTIGATION ON MY NIECE!!! The DEP and the EPA still have not taken any action on this case.
All of this mess is still up in the air, and we are working on this as fast as we can. Matters are complicated by the fact that I'm living in WV, the poisoning/well took place in PA, and my niece is now living in FL. My family and the doctors are just now coming to grips with this whole thing. IT IS INSANE AND NEEDS TO BE STOPPED!!
Thank you for reading this. I hope that it helps others who are in the same predicament.