Fracking Is Interfering with Farming in WV and PA

by S. Tom Bond on May 11, 2013

Farm Field Testing

“WV Host Farms” Concerns Include Fracking Impacts

Commentary from Diane Pitcock, West Virginia Host Farms, May 10, 2013

In rural communities in WV, we have many small farms that rely on Farmers Markets to sell their produce for supplemental income. And we also have “Mountain State Naturals” – which is a “WV Beef Farmers’ Cooperative” that markets their beef as raised without using growth hormones.

On their website: “Our cattle are raised in open fields with continual access to pasture. They are never fed growth hormones of any kind and have never been given antibiotics. Our young West Virginia beef are raised to about 1100 pounds and receive corn supplements as they reach finished weight. Because our West Virginia beef are primarily fed grass, they are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to reduce or prevent cardiac disease.”

But what now raises a concern is the fact that these pasture fed cattle are being raised for the entry into the food market in areas of WV where there is significant Marcellus shale gas drilling in these counties and on properties having oil and gas wells on or very near them.

What kind of risk will this have if the cattle are grazing in meadows and drinking from streams right next to drilling sites? They may be at risk of contamination from the hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals that are being injected down into gas wells to frack in meadows where these cattle live? Spills and leakage are of great concern. Migration from cracks and faults can occur. Is anyone studying this? They should be!

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Organic Farmers Struggle to Protect Their Land from Fracking Impacts

From an Article in EcoWatch, April 1, 2013

In Pennsylvania, organic farmers fear the entire process of shale gas drilling—from the building of the well pads through the hydraulic fracturing process to the disposal of fracking wastewater—threatening their ability to produce products that conformed to organic standards.

An 88-acre organic pork and poultry farm is less than 4,000 feet from a drilling site operated by Shell. The battle with the shale gas industry is featured in the latest installment of Gas Rush Stories, a documentary film project on shale gas drilling.

“I just don’t understand how [the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] granted them [Shell] permits to drill in this area,” Maggie Henry said in the film. According to Gas Rush Stories, old abandoned and unplugged oil and gas wells can provide a pathway for methane and other pollutants to seep to the surface and into aquifers. Pennsylvania currently does not have any laws preventing companies from drilling a shale gas well within a certain distance of an unplugged well.

If the shale gas industry were to spill chemicals or fracking wastewater on his land, Stephen Cleghorn said he would immediately call Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-accredited organic certifying agency, and have their officials take soil samples at his farm. “If my soil has been contaminated,” he explained, “I want you to decertify it because I’m not going to grow anything on it and call it organic anymore.”

Jill Kriesky, associate director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, said the issue of shale gas drilling on farmland raises many questions, all the way down the supply chain. “Should grocery stores come up with some sort of policy of testing the food that comes in?” Kriesky asks.

Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project is a nonprofit environmental health organization created to assist and support residents in the region who believe their health has been, or could be, impacted by natural gas drilling activities.

Without more research into the impact on food production and without greater transparency by the industry and the government, it would be difficult to track the issues related to food consumption. Referring to Cleghorn and Henry, Kriesky said it is clear that there are responsible farmers who do not want to sell any product that is potentially contaminated. “But we really are not completely clear on what to look for” in terms of contamination when the food makes its way to farmers’ markets, grocery stores and restaurants, she explained.

David Brown, a toxicologist at Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, has never studied anything as inescapable as shale gas drilling in his 50 years as a toxicologist. “He’s worked on Superfund sites for all sorts of really horrible environmental disasters. But they were contained,” Kriesky said. “There’s no fence line here. You can’t put a fence around what’s happening” in the communities affected by the shale gas rush, she said.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news.

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