An unstoppable tide of radioactive trash and chemical waste from Fukushima is pushing ever closer to North America. An estimated 20 million tons of smashed timber, capsized boats and industrial wreckage is more than halfway across the ocean, based on sightings off Midway by a Russian ship's crew. Safe disposal of the solid waste will be monumental task, but the greater threat lies in the invisible chemical stew mixed with sea water.
It’s a controversial subject at best, but there may be solid reasons to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in areas like the Marcellus Shale site. In addition to the numerous other environmental concerns, such as the unknown chemicals seeping into groundwater supplies, the concentration of radionuclides in the water, pipes, and equipment of a fracking site present a danger to workers and local residents.
The process of extraction of natural gas from black shale has been around a long time, but public concern has increased in recent years. Both public and private figures are calling for stricter regulations on hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydro-fracking. In states that allow this process, there have been cases of environmental pollution, including: contaminated ground water and increased levels of illness. In addition, the companies may provide no plan for efficient waste handling or accident mitigation, and potentially-harmful concentrations of radioactivity are released into the environment.
Officials in Marengo County report an explosion apparently caused by a gas pipeline rupture. It happened off Highway 69, near Rembert Hills Road south of Linden, just after 3:30 Saturday afternoon. The explosion was heard for miles around, and witnesses reported seeing flames shooting the air.
Williams Gas, which owns the pipeline, has shut off that section of the pipeline. The explosion happened in a rural area, so no people or houses were nearby. No injuries were reported, according to Marengo County EMA Director Kevin McKinney.
Gas money is transforming vast stretches of Oklahoma. Here, 40 miles west of the state capital, crews work through the night drilling new wells deep into the earth, and a small army of laborers rips through just-planted fields of winter wheat to install miles of gas pipeline.
Across the state in tiny Atoka, a Cadillac and a Jaguar park next to pickups outside the local store that sells cowboy boots and overalls; in nearby Coalgate, the natural gas industry has created six overnight millionaires.
After Scott Ely and his father talked with salesmen from an energy company about signing the lease allowing gas drilling on their land in northeastern Pennsylvania, he said he felt certain it required the company to leave the property as good as new.
So Mr. Ely said he was surprised several years later when the drilling company, Cabot Oil and Gas, informed them that rather than draining and hauling away the toxic drilling sludge stored in large waste ponds on the property, it would leave the waste, cover it with dirt and seed the area with grass. He knew that waste pond liners can leak, seeping contaminated waste.
The City of Binghamton is looking to help a group of residents in Dimock who say they've run out of clean water.
Wednesday was the last day that Cabot Oil and Gas was forced to deliver daily water supplies to some residents on Carter Road after a drilling operation contaminated their water several years ago. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection okayed the stoppage, agreeing that the water is safe. However, impacted residents say it's not safe to use. They did appeal the DEP's decision, but were denied.
"New Yorkers shouldn't become unwilling data points in a mass health experiment, " says Sandra Steingraber, the ecologist-biologist author of Raising Elijah and Living Downstream. "I want to be able to tell the 3,300 people diagnosed with cancer today, and the 3,300 people diagnosed tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, that we're not sending toxic chemicals that interfere with hormonal and cellular functioning into the water aquifers."
Last weekend on my radio program, "Connect the Dots," I interviewed Steingraber, a cancer survivor herself, whose in-depth study of the dense and interlocking frontiers of science, health, environment, and public policy, has led her to champion caution prior to incurring mass health risks.
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