Livestock Maybe Affected by Fracking via Unknown Mechanism in Fayette County, PA

by Duane Nichols on June 6, 2018

Brent Broadwater with his cattle

Concerns Linger Over Gas Well Impact on Livestock, Community in Luzerne Township of Fayette County, PA

From an Article by Mike Tony, Uniontown Herald Standard, June 3, 2018

Brent Broadwater walks through a pasture of red clover and alfalfa on his East Millsboro angus beef farm and wishes his cows could enjoy it. He knows his cattle would go crazy over the vegetation, but the pasture’s four to five acres are off limits to them now.

After years of seeing reproductive issues among his yearling heifers that grazed in the pasture, Broadwater is convinced that a shale gas well there damaged the health of those cows via a seep that formed at the bottom of the slope on the well’s south side.

“They don’t care about the farmer,” Broadwater said of Chevron and the state Department of Environmental Protection as he stood between the seep and the gas well.

In 2010, Atlas Energy developed the National Mines 26H natural gas well site on Broadwater’s property, and Chevron acquired it in 2011. Broadwater began to have problems with his herd almost immediately. The first two to three years after the well was drilled, only half of the heifers were pregnant, which struck him as highly unusual.

Broadwater bought a new bull, recalling that Chevron blamed his herd’s reproductive issues on the bull. The heifers continued to have trouble breeding, though, and about three years ago, Broadwater stopped making the pasture near the well available to his cattle.

He saw an increase in births right away. This year, the yearling heifers have had a 100 percent calving rate, having not been exposed to the 26H seep water.

But all of the cows that previously grazed in the pasture have continued to struggle with infertility issues and disappointing breeding rates, Broadwater said. He recounted with exasperation that his 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old cows, having been exposed to the seep water, have this year had four stillborn calves and one that was born with a cleft palate and died hours later.

Broadwater has no doubt that the seep is a direct result of the gas well, noting that the seep had killed grass below it for more than 300 feet below.

A lifelong farmer, Broadwater, 68, says he never had to deal with reproductive issues among his herd approaching this scale before. He thinks he and his wife Wanda know how to run a farm after all these years, and he recalled the veterinarian for his herd saying that whatever is killing the grass can’t be good for his cows, especially since the grass is their primary food source.

Broadwater acknowledges that neither Chevron nor the PA-DEP have identified a direct link between the gas well and his cows’ health issues.

Nate Calvert, policy, government, and public affairs advisor for Chevron, said Chevron and the DEP both independently investigated Broadwater’s claims, and based on analytical tests of several water samples and observations made by DEP inspectors during onsite investigation, the DEP determined that the surface water on the property was not an adverse effect of the oil and gas operation.

Calvert said Chevron adheres to all applicable state and federal regulations and responds to documented water complaints in accordance with all state and federal standards, including the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, which regulates the drilling and operation of oil and gas wells. “Chevron is committed to protecting people and the environment, and to operating with integrity,” Calvert said.

PA-DEP carefully reviews and investigates every complaint that it receives, DEP Community Relations Coordinator Lauren Fraley said. DEP received one complaint for Broadwater’s site in Sept. 2016 and conducted an on-site inspection three days later. Chevron’s personnel and consultant were also on site. Both DEP and Chevron sampled two areas of saturatedground: one on the western portion of the site and one on the eastern portion of the site.

Following DEP’s laboratory analysis of the samples, the department determined that the saturated area was not an adverse effect of Chevron’s National Mines Corp. 26H gas well.

In April, DEP released the first four years of data on the structural soundness of oil and gas wells submitted by thousands of Pennsylvania’s operators, indicating that the majority are being operated in a manner that substantially reduces the risk for groundwater impact. Well operators are required to inspect wells on a quarterly basis for structural soundness to prevent gas migration, manage leaks and protect groundwater.

According to the data, submitted in 2014, less than 1 percent of operator observations indicated integrity problems, such as gas outside surface casing, which could allow gas to move beyond a well footprint and potentially cause environmental damage.

PA-DEP is responsible in Pennsylvania for reviewing permits and conducting inspections at oil and gas well sites, pipelines and compressor stations.

“Our members, who produce 95 percent of the natural gas in Pennsylvania, are committed to continuously improving technologies through the application of world-class engineering solutions and the implementation of best practices aimed at safeguarding our environment, which includes protecting groundwater and public health,” Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer said.


Still, Broadwater and others in Luzerne Township have seen enough to convince them that gas wells aren’t good for their livestock or their community.

Phyllis Palmer, 67, of East Millsboro said that several of her husband’s cows have suffered unusual deformities in recent years, including two calves born with a deformed foot, in addition to four or five cow miscarriages.

“Don’t jump at the chance to get them on your property,” Palmer said of gas wells. “Because you don’t know what you’re gonna get.” Palmer said that the water she used to get from a well now tastes like a sewer and she buys water at Walmart instead.

Several area farmers and residents objected in February to Chevron’s request for a special exception to the Dogbone Centralized Water Facility in Luzerne Township, citing concerns about what the impact might be on their livestock.

The centralized water facility will serve as a temporary storage site for water that will be used for Chevron’s well development activities in the township, and Calvert said that the facility will significantly reduce truck traffic associated with Chevron operations.

Broadwater cited studies by veterinarian Dr. Michelle Bamberger and molecular medicine professor Dr. Robert Oswald that highlights the impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health based on interviews with animal owners who live near gas drilling operations.

A 2012 study by the pair noted eight cases of bovine health being impacted. In all eight cases, the issue was reproduction. Farmers reported an increased incidence of stillborn calves with and without congenital abnormalities such as cleft palate following exposure to affected well or pond water, or wastewater.

In a followup 2015 study, Bamberger and Oswald noted farmers in cases they followed longitudinally over an average of 25 months continued reporting cases of reproductive problems greater than what they had seen in their years of raising cattle, and that health symptoms improved for families moving out of areas with oil and gas industrial activity and living in areas where such activity decreased.

“Without complete studies, given the many apparent adverse impacts on human and animal health, a ban on shale gas drilling is essential for the protection of public health,” Bamberger and Oswald wrote in the 2012 paper, which some have criticized as being an advocacy piece.

In yellow highlighter, Broadwater noted a passage in his copy of the 2012 paper in which a family stopped using well water despite test results indicating the water was safe to drink. Despite losing a year of school, the family’s child gradually recovered after being found to have arsenic poisoning.

Broadwater is concerned about his daughter, who lives about 700 feet from the well, losing at least 10 goats within the past year, which he says is another abnormally high loss.

He’s considering suing Chevron, estimating that he’s lost between $40,000 and $50,000 in production scuttled by the infertility.

He doesn’t care what Chevron or DEP tells him the onsite findings indicate. His farming experience tells him a different story, and he wants Chevron to take responsibility.

“They should fix it,” Broadwater said.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tammy Murphy June 7, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Mr. Broadway, I am sorry to hear about the struggle you and your your family members are dealing with regarding your livestock. I have a few questions for you and am interested in learning more. Please contact Physicians for Social Responsibility at to reach me.


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