Published – New York Amsterdam News 12-16-2011
By PAUL GALLAY Hudson Riverkeeper
Last week, I joined dozens of other grassroots activists on a relief mission to a small town called Dimock, Pa., where a dozen families on Carter Road no longer have access to safe water for drinking, bathing and other household needs. They made the mistake of allowing a company named Cabot Oil & Gas to drill their properties for natural gas using the technique known as “fracking.” Now, if you open the taps at Craig and Julie Sautner’s house, what comes out is a witch’s brew of lead, toluene, naphthalene and over a dozen other poisons that Cabot executives would never let their kids go within a country mile of.
But wait, it gets worse. After ordering Cabot to provide a steady supply of clean water to the families on Carter Road, the state of Pennsylvania reversed itself this year and said Cabot could cut these families off. Deliveries stopped on Nov. 30 and Cabot’s victims got down to their last few gallons of clean water. Even their own town officials, who are deep in Cabot’s pocket, betrayed these families by blocking an offer from the nearby city of Binghamton, N.Y., to give them some of its water.
This is no isolated horror story. The EPA found a connection between fracking and poisoned water supplies in Wyoming, while Duke University scientists proved that wells within a half-mile of fracking operations are contaminated with methane levels an average of 17 times higher than before fracking began.
In Texas, fracking communities have three times as many cases of childhood asthma as the rest of the state. Meanwhile, in Dimock, Stacy Haney of Amwell Township let the drillers onto her property and then had to abandon her house because her kids got sick from all the arsenic, benzene and toluene that fracking left in their blood.
When I joined activists from around the region to bring an emergency shipment of water to Dimock last week, the families involved told us that groups like ours were all they had left. I’m proud of what we did, but when nonprofit groups like mine are all these families have because the government has completely abandoned them, it’s just criminal.
Think it can’t happen here? It can and will if we don’t stop it. Without considering the impact on our families’ health, on our quality of life, on our roads-each of the 48,000 wells now planned for New York will bring with it about 4,000 truck trips-or on other industries like farming and tourism, New York State is getting ready to issue fracking permits as soon as this spring. Public opposition to fracking is growing, but is government listening?
Here in New York, we have enough problems already. We don’t need to put our water at risk from fracking, as city officials have testified that the state’s plan would do. How many more poisoned families will it take for New York State politicians to get the message: The fracking business isn’t safe and the companies don’t make good when they screw up.
President Barack Obama faced a similar situation with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. When he saw how big the risks were, he sent the project back for a new safety study.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to do the same thing here, because fracking will not only hurt important job engines like farming and tourism, it’s also seriously bad for your health. Just ask the Sautners, 20 miles over the state line in Dimock, Pa.
The “Cabot Counter” tallies the number of days the families in Dimock are denied water delivery from Cabot Gas and Oil; the water that is their basic human right, water they now have to pay for.