Home on The Toxic Range

Pennsylvania may soon be a toxic mess.

With the election of Tom Corbett as Governor, Pennsylvania is about to be ravaged with a wave of irresponsible and minimally regulated industrialization.  If you stay in the AC, drink imported bottled water, and have all of your food flown in from organic farms, the changes probably will not affect you.  If you like to hike, fish, camp, and explore Pennsylvania’s vast forests and natural areas, you might want to find a new pastime.  Your former getaway may soon be a toxic mess.  You might also want to keep an eye on locally produced foods and your drinking water supply, unless you can handle hazardous chemicals in your system.

Industrialization can be a good thing.  Many of the small towns in rural Pennsylvania appear to be dead or dying.  New industry may revive these historic places.  On the flip side, the temporary boon could plunder the remaining small town culture and create ghost towns.

Outdoor recreation may be Pennsylvania’s largest sustainable industry.  It is not as profitable as natural gas, but it can continue indefinitely if people take care of the environment.  Most of Pennsylvania’s natural areas have undergone substantial remediation efforts over the past eighty years.  Many streams now hold populations of native brook trout.  (The PA state fish.)  Brook trout can only survive in streams with balanced ecosystems, including healthy aquatic life, shade, and cool, clean water.

The new gas extraction methods in PA require a tremendous amount of water.  In order for the operations to be profitable, water needs to be drawn from nearby streams, rivers, lakes and municipal reservoirs!   The companies take what they need; draining some streams dry and destroying delicate ecosystems.  After the drilling the waste water is extremely toxic.  Usually the water is allowed to evaporate in open pits next to the drill pads.  In some cases it is dumped back into rivers.

In August the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced that hazardous chemicals leftover from Marcellus Shale gas well drilling are being dumped –with minimal treatment – into the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh.  Apparently, there is some speculation about weather the chemicals can cause ill health to people.

I cannot recall a case where hazardous chemical contamination was a benefit to people, even in small quantities.  Logically, I cannot figure out how hazardous chemicals can be removed from waste at municipal water treatment facilities if waste fluids contain secret formulas developed and patented by the industry.  The bottom line – we have no idea what kind of hazardous chemicals are being dumped into our rivers.  If you put two and two together, you will realize that this waste may jeopardize potable water supplied to our homes, workplaces and schools.  If the chemicals cannot be removed before the waste is dumped into the rivers, then how will our utility companies remove them?  It is true that our tap water goes through a thorough filtration process, but how can our treatment plants filter out new high-tech chemicals if they have no knowledge of them?  For all we know, we may be ingesting diluted poisons.  If the chemicals were designed to dissolve solid rock hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth, we can’t be talking about Coca-Cola.

Through science, we know that hazardous chemicals in our environment cause cancer, birth defects, and other illnesses.  How many people are we going to put in harm’s way for a temporary supply of fuel?  Is it fair for one group to profit from the Marcellus Shale developments while the greater population is faced with a possibility of long-term suffering?

Sadly, it appears as though the majority of Pennsylvanians want the money now.  They are willing to sacrifice the future of the state for a mad rush of industry and a temporary boon.  Most of the profit will probably go to big business, Wall Street and investors elsewhere.  Slick ad campaigns (Managed by former director of HS) will brainwash people into thinking that they are doing the right thing in unconditionally supporting the gas industry. If the industry is challenged and regulated, perhaps a safer strategy can be discovered.

Media Coverage:

Do gas wells pose health risk? – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sudden death of ecosystem ravages long creek – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Anglers concerned about decline in Monongahela River fishing – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mon, upper Delaware on list of “most endangered” rivers in U.S. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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