September 15, 2014

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Speakers warn of fracking dangers

PITTSFIELD TWP. — Oil and gas wells could be coming to this area soon, and two speakers Monday night at the Lorain County Joint Vocational School warned of the possibility of damage to water wells and the environment from hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

“Ohio and Pennsylvania are ground zero.” — William Dubanevich, N.Y.-based lawyer

Joe Logan, director of agricultural programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, spoke to about 75 people along with William Dubanevich, a New York-based attorney who is representing property owners in Medina County and Pennsylvania in lawsuits alleging damage to water tables.

Logan said drilling “can dramatically affect a community” because 1,300 to 1,900 semi loads of material can be trucked in and out of a typical seven-well site.

He urged people to do their research and keep their eyes open when and if big rigs start drilling for oil and gas using millions of gallons of chemical-laced brine to force out the oil and gas.

Logan showed a photograph of a dead cow that drank the salty brew from a spill from a holding pond near a fracked well in Louisiana.

“Any of you in the audience who happen to be livestock owners know it’s always a really bad thing when you see a cow with its feet pointed up into the air,” Logan said.

The chemicals used in the process typically remain a trade secret and can include heavy metals, solvents and volatile organic compounds such as benzene and toluene, Logan said.

“The industry will tell you, ‘Don’t worry, there is only 1 percent of chemicals in the mixture that we’re pumping down the well,’ ” Logan said.

“If you do the math — 5 million gallons times 1 percent — you’re talking about 100,000 pounds of material and the sorts of materials being used are kind of worrisome,” Logan said.

“Fourteen oil and gas companies use 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products or compounds using 750 different chemicals or compounds,” Logan said.

Research still is being done on environmental damage, but Logan said that studies by Professor Anthony Ingraffia at Cornell University shows that concrete used in the wells is subject to failure.

“Professor Ingraffia said one quarter of those concrete jobs will fail almost immediately; three quarters will fail eventually,” Logan said.

Dubanevich, who represents plaintiffs who allege their water supplies are contaminated because of natural gas exploration, said some of his clients in Pennsylvania needed to vent their water wells to disperse “extremely high” levels of methane around their homes.

“You can’t smoke, and there can be no spark near that well, near that vent, because there could be trapped gas in there that could blow up the house,” Dubanevich said.

“They never had a problem before, but the gas industry is saying this is a naturally occurring phenomenon because your area is known to have high levels of gas,” Dubanevich said.

“Well, recent tests by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection also identified ethane in their water,” Dubanevich said.

“That gives us a clue that maybe it’s coming from deep within the earth or a pocket way below ground level and that could mean it probably came from drilling,” he said. “It can cause migration of gas into that aquifer.”

He said “shoddy drilling” can create a preferential pathway through the drill pipe “for contaminants that otherwise were trapped beneath the surface of the earth” and allow them to enter the aquifer.

Dubanevich said people have a fundamental right to clean water, but laws are weak in Ohio and Pennsylvania just as drilling is moving into high gear.

“Ohio and Pennsylvania are ground zero. North Dakota is hot. Texas is kind of peaked out. Wyoming has been devastated, but right now things are hot in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Dubanevich said.

In Ohio, Dubanevich along with attorney John Climaco of Climaco, Wilcox, Peca, Tarantino & Garolfoli Co., LPA represents firefighter Mark Mangan of Granger Township who has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his water was affected by drilling.

Mangan was among those attending the meeting at the JVS, holding gallon jugs of brownish water from his home.

Also attending the session were students from Oberlin College including Jackson Kusiak, who was arrested while protesting near a company that participates in fracking.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.