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‘Fracking Facts’ Seminars Offered

By Staff | May 11, 2011

On her way into Wheeling from the West Liberty area every day, Dottie Thomas sees gas rigs, large trucks and other signs of Chesapeake Energy’s drilling activities.

Thomas, director of the Ohio County Public Library, believes it is time to review information about how the Marcellus Shale natural gas rush is impacting West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle. The library will host the first meeting in its “Fracking Facts” series at 7 p.m. May 12 at its 52 16th St. location in Wheeling.

“I live in the West Liberty area, where there is now a lot of drilling activity,” said Thomas. “I see some of what is happening.”

The program will feature members of the Wetzel County Action Group, an organization with a website–www.wcag-wv.org–highlighting some of the potential problems associated with drilling activity. The presenters will share their four years of experience with gas extraction in their neighborhoods, and how those activities have impacted their communities. The first presentation titled, “The Process,” will focus on site preparation, drilling, fracking, compressor stations, traffic issues and completion.

The action group will hold a second presentation at the library at 7 p.m. May 26 titled, “Challenges and Suggestions.” This program will focus on the economic, social, and environmental issues raised by activities related to gas drilling.

During its third installment, the library will welcome Dee Fulton and Duane Nichols of Frack-Check West Virginia–www.frackcheckwv.net–who will discuss their organization’s activities and goals at 2 p.m. June 4.

Additional programs in the series will be announced as they are scheduled. Like all library programs, the series is free and open to the public. Call 304-232-0244 for more information. Though the library is not yet planning to have Chesapeake or other gas company representatives speak during the fracking series, Thomas said the drillers would be welcome if they decide to come.

“Our goal is to educate the public,” she said. “If the gas companies approach us, we will gladly give them a chance to speak.”

In addition to possible traffic accidents, road damage, explosions, fires, water contamination, air pollution and noise pollution, some are concerned about the chemicals natural gas drillers use for fracking. Fracking occurs after companies finish the drilling process of natural gas development. Millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped more than a mile into the ground at high pressure in order to shatter the rock, thereby releasing the gas.

Chesapeake, the most active driller in the Upper Ohio Valley, has already drilled and fracked many wells in the area, with plans to complete similar work at multiple other sites.

If even 0.5 percent of the five million gallons of water, sand and chemical solution used to frack a typical Marcellus Shale well consists of chemicals, that means 25,000 gallons of chemicals are being pumped into the ground at pressure as high as 10,000 pounds per square inch. Not every frack job requires the same solution of chemicals, so not all substances will be used for every well.

Chesapeake officials previously acknowledged using these chemicals for frack jobs, most of which can be found in common household products such as laundry detergent, hair coloring solution and antifreeze: hydrochloric acid; ethylene glycol; isopropanol; glutaraldehyde; petroleum distillate; guar gum; ammonium persulfate; formamide; borate salts; citric acid; potassium chloride; and sodium or potassium carbonate.

In addition to the materials Chesapeake acknowledges, some of the 85 fracking chemicals listed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection are xylene, toluene and tetramethylammonium chloride. Information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shows that prolonged exposure to xylene can lead to liver and kidney damage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to toluene can cause confusion, euphoria, dizziness, headache, dilated pupils, crying, anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia, liver damage and kidney damage. According to Material Safety Data Sheets, tetramethylammonium chloride is a poison that “may be fatal if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin.”