Marcellus Shale Gas Boom: Problems, Issues and Questions Persist

by Duane Nichols on June 23, 2012

Dust at Marcellus Well Site

At the Charleston Gazette in the State Capital of West Virginia, Ken Ward posts a blog called “Coal Tattoo.”  On June 22nd, he wrote about the recent speech of Senator Jay Rockefeller in the US Senate in Washington, DC.  While pointing out current challenges to coal utilization, Senator Rockefeller said: “Natural gas has its challenges, too – with serious questions about water contamination and shortages and other environmental concerns.

Ward points out that there is a post on The Daily Beast about a Yale study concerning whether the natural gas boom is a positive or negative thing for our society, discussing the data regarding accidents at gas drilling and production sites. Then, he covers the subject of the post at ProPublic, Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us, which reports the following:

Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.

Another recent article of major significance is by Taylor Kuykendall, a report for the State Journal, entitled “Silica exposure at fracking sites prompts alert:”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued a hazard alert yesterday, letting employers know that a study from NIOSH identified overexposure to silica as a health hazard for workers at hydraulic fracturing sites.

“Hazardous exposures to silica can and must be prevented. It is important for employers and workers to understand the hazards associated with silica exposure in hydraulic fracturing operations and how to protect workers,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “OSHA and NIOSH are committed to continuing to work with the industry and workers to find effective solutions to address these hazards.”

Exposure to respirable silica is a common hazard across a variety of industries. The biggest risk for workers is development of silicosis, a condition linked to lung cancer and other disease.

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