Fashion: an innovative way to raise public awareness of the toxic groundwater pollution in Appalachia. Here’s the Kiva (microloan) page for Appalachia Mud Shirts, a company that aims to dye shirts with the toxic runoff of an abandoned mine.
Appalachia Mud Shirts add value to blank garments by utilizing abandoned mine runoff. The runoff contains unnaturally high levels of minerals as a result of past mining activities. The runoff is locally refereed to as “Appalachia Mud”. Via a chemical process the pigments for the dyes are produced from the minerals contained in the runoff. The resulting byproducts are a neutral and more environmental friendly discharge. The dying of each garment directly affects local watersheds by diverting and treating several gallons of runoff. Additionally our garments help raise environmental awareness around the Abandoned Mine Runoff issue in the Appalachia Region.
Twenty-five years after the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill, it is still regarded as one of the worst environmental disasters of all time. On March 24th, 1989 an oil tanker shipwrecked in Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska, dumping 11 million gallons of crude oil. The spillage affected 11,000 square miles of sea, killing thousands of marine mammals and sea birds, and had a devastating impact across 1,300 miles of shoreline.
Under a law passed in 2012, doctors in Pennsylvania can access information on chemicals used during the fracking process, but cannot share this information with their patients or the public. The law states:
"companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information in order to diagnosis or treat a patient that may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the [stipulation] in the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else — not even the person they’re trying to treat." (Source)
There is good reason to be concerned about what’s in those fluids. A 2010 congressional investigation revealed that Halliburton and other fracking companies had used 32 million gallons of diesel products, which include toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, and xylene, among others, in the fluids they inject into the ground. Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger acute effects like headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness, while higher levels of exposure can cause cancer. Dave Masur, director of PennEnvironemt, worries that a lawsuit from major drilling companies will be reason for doctors to avoid breaking the confidentiality agreement.
"People are claiming that animals are dying and people are getting sick in clusters around [drilling wells], but we can’t really study it because we can’t see what’s actually in the product." — Senator Daylin Leach.
At the federal level, natural gas developers have long been allowed to keep the mixture of chemicals they use in fracking fluid a secret from the general public, protecting it as “proprietary information” like McDonald’s “Special Sauce” or Mr. Krab’s “Secret Formula” on Spongebob Squarepants. The industry is also exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory. This program that ensures that communities are given information about what companies are releasing into the environment. In 2005 the industry successfully lobbied for an exemption from EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act as well, in what is often referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole.” In recent years, the Obama EPA has pressed drillers to voluntarily provide more information about fracking fluids, but the industry has largely rebuffed those appeals.
An article published in August of 2013 explains that some fracking companies use “gag orders” to buy victims silence.
”Energy companies have been issuing gag orders on families who contract with them. The gag orders cover everyone in the family, including children. Drilling company Range Resources offered $750,000 to a Pennsylvania family to move from their home with one catch: the family, and their kids, were not to say a word.” (Source)
Sharon Wilson, Earthworks organizer, says that these payouts are the reason why drilling companies are able to claim to Congress that there are no reported cases of contamination. Similar gag orders have even been placed on doctors to prohibit them from telling their patients about the chemicals used in fracking.
This picture demonstrates how well water and drinking water can be contaminated by hydraulic fracking. In 2012, when the article that accompanies this picture was published, there were 500,000 active gas wells that use 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals. There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination in areas near fracking facilities. Sensory, respiratory, and neurological damage have also been attributed to the ingestion of contaminated water. Not only is the water being contaminated, but also the air around these drilling sites. The waste fluid from fracking stations is left to evaporate, releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere, which contributed to contaminated air, acid rain, and ground level ozone. Wind plays a role in moving and pushing these contaminants around, making a larger area that has been impacted. Even some earthquakes have been considered to be “man-made” due to natural gas drilling sites that can trigger fault lines.
Gasland 2 is a continuation of the first Gasland film by Josh Fox. He shows that the contaminating of water and air is hurting families and endangering the earth’s climate with the potent greenhouse gas, methane. Fox pushes his efforts to get scientific proof that fracking is harmful to the Earth’s environment and its residents on a world-wide scale. Fox claims that these powerful, wealthy oil and gas industries are also “contaminating our democracy” by having such an influential grasp over the government. The film is available on DVD and Netflix.
Shalefield Stories is a booklet with first hand experiences from people who have dealt with fracking damage. These accounts tell of people who are suffering air and water pollution and illnesses in the wake of nearby fracking operations.
Some of the stories include:
- Marilyn Hunt of Wetzel County, WV- found toxic chemicals in her water that came from a drilling site one mile from her home.
- Judy Armstrong Stiles of Bradford County, PA- found barium and arsenic in her drinking water and in her blood stream, after Chesapeake began drilling on her land.
- June Chappel of Washington County, PA- has a 15 million gallon fracking waste pit 200 feet from her house.
Some of the symptoms reported in Shalefield Stories included rashes, nausea, respiratory issues and stress. These symptoms reflect what many health care providers see when examining residents and workers impacted by drilling operations.
This picture reflects what the purpose of the Shalefield Stories. Here you can see kids playing on a playground as their parents look over them while a flame from a drilling site is off in the distance. This image represents how everyday people and families are forced to try to live their normal lives, but the natural gas industry is looming in the background, effecting their lives one way or another.
Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Air and Water is a comprised of concerned citizens in Western Pennsylvania with a common goal of protecting Pennsylvania’s natural resources and the environment. Their main mission is to “raise awareness of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing on public health and the environment, and to halt any activity that threatens the quality of life of the residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
On their website, there is a list called “List of the Harmed.” It is an ever-growing list of more than 5,500 individuals and families who have been harmed by fracking in the United States.
Some of the people included on the list are:
- Susan Wallace Babbs
Location: Parachute, CO
Gas Facility: Gas wells
Exposure: Air- benzene, tetrachloroetheneand 1,4-dichlorobenzene
Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, lesions, pain, elevated heart rate
*Wallace Babbs’ symptoms mirror those reported by neighbors living near her ranch in Parachute, CO, and by dozens of residents of communities across the country that have seen the most extensive natural gas drilling.
- Carl Stiles (deceased at age 46)
Location: Bradford County, PA
Gas Facility: Chesapeake gas wells
Exposure: Water – strontium, uranium and radium
Symptoms: Barium, arsenic, and VOCs (volatile organic chemicals) in blood, intestinal cancer, headaches, memory loss, and tremors
“There are so many people in Sugar Run who have water buffaloes…”
Location: Silt, CO
Gas Facility: Gas wells
Exposure: Air- fumes, dust
Symptoms: Constant fatigue, headaches, nausea, fatigue and dizziness
*Among her neighbors, Karen Trulove counts a half-dozen who have removed the batteries from their smoke alarms after they tired of hearing them mysteriously activated. She believes they were tripped by unseen chemicals in the air.
- Blancett Family
Location: San Juan County, NM
Gas Facility: Gas wells
Exposure: Water – leaks and spills
Symptoms (animal): Lost cows to toxic oil and gas waste; testing of sick cattle from the area by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in 2005 found petroleum in the hair of 54 out of 56 cows
In 2010, Josh Fox wrote and directed a documentary called Gasland. This documentary follows Fox after his reception of a letter in 2008, from a natural gas company offering to lease his family’s land in Pennsylvania for $100,000 to drill for gas. Curious about the hydraulic fracking process, Fox then set out to see how communities are being affected in the west where a natural gas drilling boom has been underway for the last decade. He spoke with residents who have experienced a variety of chronic health problems directly traceable to the contamination of their water. Throughout the documentary, Fox reaches out to scientists, politicians, and gas industry executives in order to get answers. In many instances, he was denied access to any information. Fox uses pity and compassion for all life effected by these drilling ridges in order to get viewers to vote or demand change on regulations on drilling from the government. His purpose is to inform and educate the general public on hydraulic fracking. If change does not occur, the world as we know it can be changed forever.
This photo essay done by Brian Cohen portrays the struggles of those effected by fracking. In some of the pictures, you can see what was once serene landscapes, is now littered with machines and fracking industry. Other pictures shows a family having to purchase clean water in large quantities because their well water has been contaminated. The fracking industry changes every aspect of these families lives. The purpose of Cohen’s photo essay is to cause action against fracking for those living in these depleted lands. Susan Sontag wrote that photography is valued for information that they provide. These photos provide insight to the negative aspect of the fracking world.