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Conference gives 'Toxic Tour' of northern Faulkner County

Posted: March 14, 2014 - 7:39pm
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A group of environmental activists held a conference in Conway on Friday followed by a “Toxic Tour” of areas around Greenbrier, Quitman and Damascus.

The conference was held by the Coming Clean Collaborative, a nationwide umbrella organization that assists around 200 organizational partners, including the local Arkansasfracking.org.

About two dozen people were at the conference and “Toxic Tour,” mostly from out of state. There were several people from New York and California, with others from Louisiana, Wyoming and Ohio.

The group is trying to collect air samples from areas in and around Faulkner County where residents report migraines, nosebleeds, respiratory problems and things like dizziness and fatigue that they say are connected with petrochemical activity. According to Stephenie Hendricks, communication director for Coming Clean, the air samples have been analyzed and will be a crucial part of a future study the group will submit to a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

If a direct causal connection between illness and natural gas activity could be proven to the satisfaction of the scientific community through the peer-review process, it would be an important step in linking the several actual and possible airborne contaminants from natural gas operational sites with reported illnesses. This would give groups like Arkansasfracking.org more leverage in lobbying for more stringent state emissions and chemical storage and use regulations and statutes for Arkansas’ petrochemical industry, Hendricks said.

Possible airborne contaminants from natural gas operations include fine particles from the many diesel engines that power trucks, generators and compressors and vapors from the cocktail of chemicals used in the fracking and drilling process.

The results of air samples obtained so far were the subject of a meeting on Friday morning at the Microtel hotel off Harkrider Street, but these results were discussed in secret with members of the media specifically excluded.

But media was invited on the tour, which involved a large chartered tour bus going to several natural gas compression stations and well pads, including ones down some unpaved roads where probably no tour bus had ever gone before.

People had come from all over the country for the tour, including Laura Niederhofer of New York, a consultant for the American Sustainable Business Council. Niederhofer said that she came to Faulkner County for the “toxic tour” because, while there are a lot of common themes to petrochemical-related health and environmental concerns, “there are also nuances to every state.”

The only Arkansas citizens on the tour were April and Emily Lane of Arkansasfracking.org and four residents who shared their stories about the negative side of the Fayetteville Shale operations.

One woman from the Heber Springs area said that she owned the surface, but not mineral rights to the land where her family lives. Because she didn’t own the mineral rights, she had no recourse when drilling operations began on her property over her objections. Under Arkansas law, and that of most other states, a surface owner’s rights are subservient to the holder of mineral rights, and so by law a surface owner must allow a reasonable portion of their land to be used so that the mineral owner can exercise their subsurface rights.

In this woman’s case, the exercise of the mineral owner’s rights meant the construction of a drilling pad (a large compacted gravel “slab” where exploration, drilling and other natural gas operations happen) and a pit for drilling fluid and other liquid by-products. She said that health and safety issues, as well as intimidation when she tried to get police and other authorities involved, resulted in her putting her family land on the market.

“Who wants their private land and their space and their people invaded?,” she said. “I can no longer have my dream to go back to my land and there’s the sentimental value of the land … I cried almost every day for a year — that they could force you without any court system or laws … ” and at this point she began crying again.

Another woman told her story of how she had to abandon her federally and state-licensed wildlife rehabilitation and refuge business after natural gas exploration led to the sickness and death of wildcats. She said that she had evidence from a post-death autopsy of one wildcat that the chemical 2-butoxyethanol (a foaming agent used in natural gas operations) caused death through kidney failure. She also described a number of health issues that seemed to clear up when she spent extended periods out-of-state that she said her local doctor refused to investigate when she asked to be tested for specific chemicals related to natural gas exploration.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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Budnmud
22490
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Budnmud 03/17/14 - 08:25 am
4
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I wonder

I wonder how "Green" that big ole bus was.... just wondering....

mikeng1994
11776
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mikeng1994 03/17/14 - 08:38 am
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I would like to call a big BS on this

And here's why,

1. "According to Stephenie Hendricks, communication director for Coming Clean, the air samples have been analyzed and will be a crucial part of a future study the group will submit to a peer-reviewed scientific journal". If the samples prove negative will we hear those results? Also these samples need to be sent to in independent lab with absolutely no idea of where they came from or why they were taken.

"The results of air samples obtained so far were the subject of a meeting on Friday morning at the Microtel hotel off Harkrider Street, but these results were discussed in secret with members of the media specifically excluded." Does this not raise a flag?

2. Possible airborne contaminants from natural gas operations include fine particles from the many diesel engines that power trucks, generators and compressors and vapors from the cocktail of chemicals used in the fracking and drilling process." and then further down "invited on the tour, which involved a large chartered tour bus." Hypocritical tree-huggers in rare form here.

3. Nobody was complaining when they were writing the big checks when all this work was being done. So why now? I would be curious to know if the huggers are paying residents to say something that fits their platform.

Emily Lane
47
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Emily Lane 03/17/14 - 12:38 pm
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From Co-Director of ArkansasFracking.org

To address your points:
First, yes the results will be made public within the next few months. We will be releasing them to public officials and other decision makers soon. We also will alert residents and the public when the collaborative national report comes out. So of course, the results will be made public, at this point we have to wait to release them to the general public because it would compromise our ability to submit our research to a scientific/academic journal. This addresses your next point as well, as to why the press was not allowed in one of our meetings during this conference when we discussed the results to see the trends from state to state. Again, this was simply because it could compromise our ability to publish our findings in a scientific journal if this information was published else where. We can talk about the results, we just can't actually publish them anywhere officially until the scientific journal accepts our publication.

The lab we used was independent and certified by EPA. The lab services both industry and environmental groups, so it does not sway to either side.

As with most things in our consumer economy, fossil fuels dominate consumer goods, including the bus that we chartered. Our group works very hard to promote renewables. We personally recycle as much as we can, carpool, bike, walk, repurpose items, etc. For example, I wash out ziplock bags and reuse them several times, while most just throw them away after one use... that's just an example of the little every day things we try to do on top of raising awareness to larger issues. When we are able to afford electric vehicles or other alternatives, we will implement that in all of our doings. It would be nice if our government, locally and nationally would make it easier for regular consumers like us to get rebates and to buy things that run on and are created by alternative forms of energy like solar and wind.

To your point that nobody was complaining when big checks were being written, not quite sure what you mean. Our group has been heavily involved since 2010 after we felt the earthquake swarm that was triggered by waste disposal from gas wells. Since that time we have met countless residents who have been negatively affected (even those that have gotten royalty checks are sick too, and their checks are very little help to remedy their ills). Our group is a small nonprofit and since 2010, none of us have made any money (salary, paycheck, etc) from our work. All of this is volunteer effort from people who also lead productive lives in society. We all work full time regular jobs and many of us go to school full time as well. The last thing we would do is pay folks to get behind our agenda. Even if we had money to do that, that is not our mantra... that sounds more like what the gas industry does, and we don't engage in such practices. Residents seek us out to tell us their stories because they've been ignored by state agencies that are set up to regulate the industry.

For more information on fracking in Arkansas, please visit www.ArkansasFracking.org To reach out to our group with any additional questions, concerns, debate points, etc., you can reach us at ArFracking@gmail.com, to reach me personally: Emily.Dreamtime@gmail.com

mikeng1994
11776
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mikeng1994 03/17/14 - 02:05 pm
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Thank you Emily for your

Thank you Emily for your response to my questions and concerns. I sincerely appreciate it.

If the results of these tests are so horrible as it would seem, then why are they not published at the time of discovery? Waiting for publishing on such a tragedy would not be the best path I would think. It would certainly quiet the conspiracy theorists among us.

As for the lab being independent and certified by the EPA, I just don't think the two can coexist. If they did, then the lab would have to have a complete anonymous sample and then give a report on that.

I personally live in northern Faulkner county. Just about a mile from the Clebourne/Van Buren county line. I do not receive a "big" check, but I do see one once in a while. I live just about 3 road miles from the injection well that was shut down. To this day, I do not know personally anyone who is suffering ill effects from the results of fracking, nor have I have heard of any. I am not aware of any damages do to earthquakes, and my well water is just as abundant and tastes as good as the the day it was drilled. There are gas wells within 1/4 mile of my house.

I am not saying there are not those people you represent, I just have not heard about them. I am probably the last person there still using well water and you are more than welcome to come up and sample it. I'm not from Missouri, but someone will have to show me.

Emily Lane
47
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Emily Lane 03/18/14 - 11:01 am
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Thank you for your inquiry

Mike,

The reason this conference was held, was because results for all 5 states including in this sampling project were very recently compiled and analyzed. We were just seeing the results for the first time as a whole ourselves. Keep in mind that April and I (who are representing ArkansasFracking.org in this case) are not scientists, but we are trained by professionals who invented this sample technology that we use. You can check out their website here. They are really great people who work around the world in areas vulnerable to air pollution http://www.gcmonitor.org/

The first question asked in our first meeting for this conference was the same that we had (and it came from a woman who has been working in Wyoming for 2 years on this issue), she said "when do we get to show these results to the people?" We are obviously on the same page that we want information to be freely released. There are issues of timing, and the big issue is the journal article. For the science side of the "fracking debate" to come out and actually be effective, we need to grow the body of literature on air pollution around petro-chemicals and its affect on human health. These things take planning, lots of concerted effort and sacrifice, and yes, in a way, there are politics involved. The good news is, like I said earlier, we are free to show our local officials and regulators (and health professionals, etc) the results of the testing. We plan to do that whenever they are willing to meet us at the table :) We will reach out and invite them, of course. At this point, before the journal article is approved, we cannot give them hard copies of data. We can show it to them (say on a powerpoint slide) so they know what's going on and we can develop plans to help affected people from that point. Does this make sense? I know it's not ideal, and I consider myself an idealist, but we feel that in the long run that this is the course of action that we need to take.

More good news, there are a lot of studies out there already on how this type of gas activity (fracking, and the related lifecycle processes) can be harmful to the environment and human health. Here are a few (there are many more just a google search away: (This one is from many of the same folks we are collaborating with me on this project, from 2011) http://www.arkansasfracking.org/GCM-gassedreport.pdf
Here's one from the Arkansas Public Policy Panel: http://www.arkansasfracking.org/APPP_-_Violations_of_Water_Standards.pdf

Here is a recent study published in a top tier environmental journal: "birth outcomes and maternal residential proximity to natural gas development in rural Colorado"

There are many more. The same chemicals and processes are used in Arkansas, but just as is said in this article, there are "nuances" in every state.

So while, we may not be able to, for example, post our results on facebook or print them in the paper. We can still inform the decision makers and regulators of our counties, and will hold public town halls and such as soon as we can manage that. If you keep up with our facebook page, we will have updates:) https://www.facebook.com/ArkansasFracking.org

About the EPA... I'm speaking for myself on this one. I'm not a big fan of the EPA, not because they don't have good people working for them, but they are so politically tied up that folks like us (who actually see and are trying to collect data to help regulators/legislators) are being held down. They are catering to industry, just like many of our federal and state agencies/govts do. I do not like big government, I am for sustainability and the local people taking responsibility for themselves and not living under structures that come so powerful that regular folks like me (raised in Greenbrier, Arkansas in a lower middle class family) can actually make a change for the better for Arkansas. That said, these labs can't legitimately operate without EPA certification. If we did a report out from under EPA certification, we would get backlash from that as well from folks saying "how do we know that lab was following the rules" etc. It's kind of a lose-lose situation on our end, and we are just trying to get the truth out there... in the face of big oil and gas who have exponentially more resources and power of the people as we do. Sorry to be so ranting, but this is how I feel.

There are very few independent labs that exist, period. Matter of fact, it's pretty standard operating procedure for nonprofits that are doing this type of testing to jump from one lab to the next until they actually find one that doesn't fudge the numbers. They are hard to find because most of their business is with industry. So you see the pickle we are in, and the obstacles that groups face who do community monitoring.

I also live in Northern Faulkner County and have all my life. My mother taught school in Greenbrier for many years, and my father recently retired from Woolly Hollow State Park. My roots are here. My heart is here. And I've not been as lucky as you to see or hear of no damage. The drilling really started in 2005ish, and picked up in 2009ish. Like I said above, I was not even aware of any issues in all that time until the earthquakes and rumors started. Then we go to one town hall meeting and Bam, we met 3 dozen people who have been dealing with gas industry issues since 2005. And these are folks that some just live right up the road from us. We were totally baffled by what we learned at that meeting, of just hearing folks genuinely talk about their stories and what they have suffered, and what they'd been doing to get help from the State, and how the State has been slow or totally neglectful of them. My mother raised us to stand up for those people, and so that night we made a decision to start our group and see what we can do to help. From there, the word spread about us and people started coming out of the woodworks to tell us their stories. We did (and still do) our best to connect these folks with the proper decision makers and doctors, etc. But it's hard because there are so few of us, and like I said earlier, we do not get paid and have to also spend time making a living on the side.

I've heard people say that they've had no problems at all since the drilling began, and then had their neighbor say the opposite. That's how it is with fracking, it can be localized, and it can be widespread at the same time. This is why the air issue is important. Your water well is likely not contaminated, but you can't escape the air and the wind...

As far as folks with earthquake damage. Have you seen the billboard on Hwy 65 about Earthquake damage? There was a fellow who lived down the road from my parents (also in Greenbrier) who had $80,000+ damage to his home. CNN and Nightline did a story of a few residents in the Guy area that had extensive damage. I've been these people personally as well. One recently moved to Conway after selling his home and taking a quarter million dollar loss on property value. This man's dream home that he wanted to retire in and grow a garden and play with his grandkids. He can no longer do that. Again, just one of many stories that we've heard since purposefully putting ourselves in a position to hear such stories.

For more on the earthquakes, see my reply to the next person's post about that specific issue. :) This one's already long enough, ha.

Also, if you live within 1/4 mile of a well, the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission can come and test your well for free :) I'm glad they do that. They don't test for everything, but again, another agency that is under-resourced (and has conflicts of interest), but at least they do test water wells when someone requests it. Very few know that they have that option... very few even know who the OGC is. I didn't before the earthquakes.

Thank you for the discussion. :) I'd love to continue if you have more questions or concerns.

Emily Lane
47
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Emily Lane 03/18/14 - 11:10 am
1
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Air report from ADEQ

I meant to include this as well. Our Ark. Dept. of Environmental Quality did this report a few years ago. It was a very long document that I condensed into 6ish pages. I just took direct quotes from the report and posted it to facebook, let me know if the link doesn't work. I think it's set to "public" https://www.facebook.com/notes/emily-lane/summary-of-adeq-emissions-inve...

I bolded the things I thought were important, namely that their air testing equipment is not adequate enough to measure for toxins in levels that affect long term health. It was not a comprehensive study either, as they have little resources and were rushed into doing this (pressured by EPA, of all things, ha). So they had to follow in toe and do this report. They tried, but it is lacking a lot of work and they even knowledge that population has very likely increased since the time of this testing/report because more wells have been drilled and it's an accumulative effect. So then they acknowledge that more testing needs to be done. They haven't done any since 2011 :( No resources, and another reason why we partnered with Global Community Monitor to help out our state to identify some of the chemicals (and where) people are possibly being exposed.

Elmer Fudd
4377
Points
Elmer Fudd 03/18/14 - 11:23 am
2
2
Come on

Ms. Lane the EPA sucking up to industry? Nothing could be further from the truth. They are in fact killing them with endless regulations.

Emily Lane
47
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Emily Lane 03/18/14 - 11:48 am
2
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EPA

My opinion is that many of their regulation are indeed Ludacris. The main issue, from my point of view, is that no matter what the regs were, the EPA has it's hands tied to actually do much and be effective. In some regions they are better than others. Our region (6) is not great and doing much of anything because it covers Texas and LA and these oil/gas bearing states in the South. The local EPA's region 6 reaction to the Mayflower oil spill for example, was very much in line with how Exxon wanted them to respond and be involved.

I agree with you, in part, if regulations don't work, they are useless. But certain regs need to be in place to protect human health. Do you agree or disagree? I don't think EPA has it right either way, but I think some people in that agency, just like many in the gas industry, are just good people trying to make a living. Unfortunately, with all the money and politics involved in our govt and agencies (both from Red and Blue states) the EPA's function and action have been skewed. I don't think there needs to be more regs. I think there needs to be less regs, but that make sense and that all can agree to work on together to make sure people are not harmed. That's common sense enough for me. There is too much politicking and not enough protecting the people. That's why citizens need to step up and take that responsibility for themselves. This is what the founding fathers intended for us and what they wrote about in the constitution. We have a right and obligation to see that EPA (that is supposed to protect the people) are doing their job by simultaneously protecting people and organizations that operate.

Elmer Fudd
4377
Points
Elmer Fudd 03/18/14 - 12:15 pm
1
2
Seems then

we both agree a lot of the EPA's work is just to make regulations so as to preserve the agency. Got to protect those federal jobs that come with so many perks while working and afterwards. I will await with interest the unbiased air sample results. Chuckle.

Emily Lane
47
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Emily Lane 03/18/14 - 11:41 am
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Link to Birth Effects and Gas Activity

Oops, forgot to attach this link to a scientific journal article published recently: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/122/1/ehp.1306722.pdf

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