I read about the death of Carl Stiles yesterday. Thank you, Dory Hippauf, for sharing that very sad link on the FrackCheckWV Facebook wall. Here’s the link. I’ve added this tragic tale to The Human Story page (under the Impacts tab) on this website along with the other stories that are coming out in a steady stream from all the states where fracking occurs. How many stories are we not hearing about because gas companies are paying for the silence of their victims with cash settlements including confidentiality agreements?
In a nutshell, fracking occurred near the home of Carl and his wife, Judy, of Bradford County, PA. The household water supply in the Stiles home was contaminated with heavy metals and radioactive elements. Carl and Judy drank and showered in the toxic water and were exposed to high levels of radioactivity in their home before testing related to their illnesses (severe abdominal pain, muscle tremors, dizziness, racing heart)led to of the finding of contaminated water. Both were told by a physician that they would likely die within 2 years due to leukemia related to their exposure to toxic compounds. The radioactivity level in their home was almost 7 times the EPA standard limit. The Stiles were forced to abandon their home and all the possessions in it. Carl died of intestinal cancer on January 26, 2012. Click here for the letter from the Stiles that tells the story in their own words. You Tube of Carl Stiles and fiance Jude (1 minute)
I wonder if the Stiles had their water tested prior to the fracking activity commencing in their neighborhood. When victims of water contamination have not had water testing done in advance to document that their water is free of contaminants, it has been successfully argued in law suits that it cannot be proven that the water was not contaminated before drilling was done.
Of course many people relied on the assurances of no risk of water contamination made by landsmen and by corporate spokespersons, and thus did not have their water tested. They were shown a graphic of a mile of rock separating the gas producing zone and the aquifer. Those corporate promoters did not mention that water contamination has occurred with faulty well casings, leaky pits containing flowback water, and well blowouts and spills into streams and rivers providing public water.
I think hearing first-hand the heart-wrenching testimony of Stacey Haney of Washington County, PA heightened my sensitivity to the grave injustices of fracking. Ms. Haney gave personal testimony at a WV/PA Watersheds Compact meeting in spring 2011. The Haney family suffered from arsenic poisoning due to contamination of their well water; Stacy’s son nearly died of liver failure. The source of contamination is suspected to be a leaky wastewater pit on a neighboring tract.
Life is precious. Health is precious. The loss of one life or injury to the health of one person is too high a price to pay for irresponsible natural gas development.
People must take action to accomplish change. Here are some options for action:
1. A donation in the memory of fractivist Carl Stiles may be made to the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (Luzerne County based). There is a GDAC-hosted concert coming up on Feb 19 in Plains, PA at the River Street Jazz Cafe.
2. In West Virginia, contact WV Sierra Club Outreach Organizer Chuck Wyrostok (firstname.lastname@example.org). Chuck can connect you with others in your community to learn how to work for stronger state regulation. You may find friends to carpool with to Charleston on February 8th for the West Virginia Environmental Council’s annual E-Day.
In Pennsylvania, here is the link to the PA Sierra Club.
3. Sign a petition to the EPA. It takes but a minute.
4. Write a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper. (Click here for a assistance.) Demand that the law must be changed to make drilling companies responsible for paying for the testing of water of residents within a prescribed radius of a hydraulically fractured gas well. This should simply be part of the cost of doing business rather than putting the burden on the residents.
Also, the law must be changed to prohibit confidentiality agreements as part of legal settlements of lawsuits involving water contamination or air pollution. This is allowing gas companies to pay off victims and hide as much evidence of public health threats as possible.
5. Contributions to local organizations that are working hard, mostly under volunteer steam, to call for stronger legislation can always use donations to fund expenses.
6. Become an educated voter. Vote for representatives that will fight for changes in the law to protect you and your family from harm due to irresponsible gas industry practices. There are many other changes to be made to protect surface owners and the public health.