From a follow-up interview conducted by e-mail and used with permission:

Hi David,

Thanks for coming up to Ithaca on Friday.

On a separate note, would you mind if I share your experience with fracking with people in Ithaca?  If it’s okay with you for me to do so, I’d also like to confirm what you told me:

1.       Pollution of your well (two wells?). How did this show up?

Bohlander:  We have two wells on the farm (190 acres).  We had a detailed baseline water testing done on both before any of the gas activity happened in our area.  We subsequently have had another 6 or so tests done on these wells.  It is crucial to have certified baseline testing done prior to any activity by gas companies or they will claim there is no proof they are the cause and argue it was a pre-existing condition.  We also retained a very competent hydrologist (who has the gas company clients) who was the plaintiffs hydrologist in the Dimock, PA contamination (highlighted in the movie Gasland).  The well for the barn/and original farmhouse was so contaminated with methane they thought it would explode so the well pump was disconnected for six months and water was trucked in by the gas companies for the animals, and spring water for the humans!

2.       The operations end up being more extensive than anticipated.  The “pads” are large, and end up being used for other operations.

Bohlander:  Gas companies are major deceivers.  They do this many ways. One is using land agents that are not their employees so that they can claim “we never said that ..they did”

Most all the neighbors were told that the gas wells would be drilled, it would take 3 months or so, and then land would be restored to earlier state. In reality this is what happens. They excavate a pad obliterating the natural terrain, hauling in 100’s of trucks of stone, gravel, etc.  Once the pad is completed, they only drill 2-4 actual gas wells of what ultimately are likely going to be 12 or so on that pad.  They may not frack the drilled wells immediately, but wait sometimes a year.  The intention is to refrack over and over the same drilled wells.  They are now claiming there is 60 years of gas here.  Simultaneously, although not on all pads, they use the pads for other things such as equipment storage, frack water storage, and the worst:  frack water recycling which we have three in our neighborhood and 2 are 10 year permits (one is in the review process, 9 days to go).  These are REGIONAL frack water recycling operations bringing in dirty radioactive brine from 15 miles away or more, operating 24/7 with extensive noise, lights and traffic.  DEP is way behind on enforcement.  The neighbors are the enforcers, but it is David vs. Goliath (the gas companies).  After four years now, I have not seen one well pad restored back to the original state.  The stated plan by the gas companies is that there will be one well pad every 50 acres.  If the well pad is 10 acres, 20% of our surface land area will be a perpetual well pad.

3.       Extensive light pollution due to 24/7 operation.

Bohlander:  Re frack water recycling:  They power huge lights that light of the pads for the whole night.  They don’t use street electric but generators which contribute to the noise.  The trucks have large pumps that due to the volume of 5200 gallons per truck are large motors,  the trucks endlessly are using their backup safety beepers, horns for instructions to the ground crew, etc.  The three sites in our neighborhood will generate 800 trucks a day, 1600 with return trip passes.

The gas drilling when it goes on makes it almost impossible to sleep.  24/7, 7 days a week.

4.       Extensive trucking.

Bohlander: The gas companies make new roads over smaller older roads to accommodate their extensive traffic.  The state allows them to exceed the weight limit of the road by paying some fee or posting a bond.  The small country road in front of our farm is now elevated 3 feet in the air from normal ground level.  Certain roads are used as main arterial roads after they have been rebuilt –this happened to ours.  The trucks are hauling huge amounts of gravel, fill, fresh water for fracking and the dirty brine water out, as well as all the equipment for the drilling process.  Each well on the pad uses 5 million gallons of water.  60% flows back and is recycled, but removed from the site.  Our road was destroyed initially and impassible.  The gas companies then closed 10 mile stretches of the road for months at a time as they began rebuilding it.  One landowner could only get to and from his property with a four wheeler.

5.       Feel free to add any other relevant details.

Bohlander:  The gas companies have a very systematic playbook from the years of operating and polluting Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, etc.  They have two sides:  a friendly neighborly “give $35K to the fire company” and then a ruthless no-holds-barred side.   Three times they threatened that in 24 hours they were going to stop trucking in water for the cows in our barn unless we agreed to things.  These things include non-disclosure agreements, consent not to sue, etc.  Read the book Collateral Damage.  A lot of good environmental activist groups with websites and a lot of info.  Many have been to our house.  We were one of the first contaminated sites in this region from the drilling.

The public does not have any idea how bad the permanent environmental contamination is going to be.  There has been major barium and radiation poisoning with some already.  One not far from us is a 13-year- old girl with barium poisoning.  One of our immediate neighbors’ daughters is having clumps of hair fall out and his dog got sick and parakeet died from drinking his well water.  He abuts one of the frack water recycling sites.

Air pollution is the sleeping giant.   Each well pad on an ongoing basis emits things into the air (like toluene) as the gas goes through a preliminary filtering process at the well pad.  The absolutely worst are the gas compression stations for both noise and air pollution.

As you may know, the gas drilling is exempt from the Clean Water Act  — we actually are more apt to be fined if manure is spread on the road, than these major infractions the gas company are doing.  The environmental enforcement agencies only slap their wrists with fines.  Cost of doing business to gas companies –easier to just pay the fine.


Tags: , , , , ,

Slick Operator: The BP I’ve Known Too Well

Wednesday 05 May 2010


I’ve seen this movie before. In 1989, I was a fraud investigator hired to dig into the cause of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Despite Exxon’s name on that boat, I found the party most to blame for the destruction was … British Petroleum (BP).

That’s important to know, because the way BP caused devastation in Alaska is exactly the way BP is now sliming the entire Gulf Coast.

Tankers run aground, wells blow out, pipes burst. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. And when it does, the name of the game is containment. Both in Alaska, when the Exxon Valdez grounded, and in the Gulf last week, when the Deepwater Horizon platform blew, it was British Petroleum that was charged with carrying out the Oil Spill Response Plans (OSRP), which the company itself drafted and filed with the government.

What’s so insane, when I look over that sickening slick moving toward the Delta, is that containing spilled oil is really quite simple and easy. And from my investigation, BP has figured out a very low-cost way to prepare for this task: BP lies. BP prevaricates, BP fabricates and BP obfuscates.

That’s because responding to a spill may be easy and simple, but not at all cheap. And BP is cheap. Deadly cheap.

To contain a spill, the main thing you need is a lot of rubber, long skirts of it called a “boom.” Quickly surround a spill, leak or burst, then pump it out into skimmers, or disperse it, sink it or burn it. Simple.

But there’s one thing about the rubber skirts: you’ve got to have lots of them at the ready, with crews on standby in helicopters and on containment barges ready to roll. They have to be in place round the clock, all the time, just like a fire department, even when all is operating A-O.K. Because rapid response is the key. In Alaska, that was BP’s job, as principal owner of the pipeline consortium Alyeska. It is, as well, BP’s job in the Gulf, as principal lessee of the deepwater oil concession.

Before the Exxon Valdez grounding, BP’s Alyeska group claimed it had these full-time, oil spill response crews. Alyeska had hired Alaskan natives, trained them to drop from helicopters into the freezing water and set booms in case of emergency. Alyeska also certified in writing that a containment barge with equipment was within five hours sailing of any point in the Prince William Sound. Alyeska also told the state and federal government it had plenty of boom and equipment cached on Bligh Island.

But it was all a lie. On that March night in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in the Prince William Sound, the BP group had, in fact, not a lick of boom there. And Alyeska had fired the natives who had manned the full-time response teams, replacing them with phantom crews, lists of untrained employees with no idea how to control a spill. And that containment barge at the ready was, in fact, laid up in a drydock in Cordova, locked under ice, 12 hours away.

As a result, the oil from the Exxon Valdez, which could have and should have been contained around the ship, spread out in a sludge tide that wrecked 1,200 miles of shoreline.

And here we go again. Valdez goes Cajun.

BP’s CEO Tony Hayward reportedly asked, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?”

It’s what you didn’t do, Mr. Hayward. Where was BP’s containment barge and response crew? Why was the containment boom laid so damn late, too late and too little? Why is it that the US Navy is hauling in 12 miles of rubber boom and fielding seven skimmers, instead of BP?

Last year, CEO Hayward boasted that, despite increased oil production in exotic deep waters, he had cut BP’s costs by an extra one billion dollars a year. Now we know how he did it.

As chance would have it, I was meeting last week with Louisiana lawyer Daniel Becnel Jr. when word came in of the platform explosion. Daniel represents oil workers on those platforms; now, he’ll represent their bereaved families. The Coast Guard called him. They had found the emergency evacuation capsule floating in the sea and were afraid to open it and disturb the cooked bodies.

I wonder if BP painted the capsule green, like they paint their gas stations.

Becnel, yesterday by phone from his office from the town of Reserve, Louisiana, said the spill response crews were told they weren’t needed because the company had already sealed the well. Like everything else from BP mouthpieces, it was a lie.

In the end, this is bigger than BP and its policy of cheaping out and skiving the rules. This is about the anti-regulatory mania, which has infected the American body politic. While the tea baggers are simply its extreme expression, US politicians of all stripes love to attack “the little bureaucrat with the fat rule book.” It began with Ronald Reagan and was promoted, most vociferously, by Bill Clinton and the head of Clinton’s deregulation committee, one Al Gore.

Americans want government off our backs … that is, until a folding crib crushes the skull of our baby, Toyota accelerators speed us to our death, banks blow our savings on gambling sprees and crude oil smothers the Mississippi.

Then, suddenly, it’s, “Where was hell was the government? Why didn’t the government do something to stop it?”

The answer is because government took you at your word they should get out of the way of business, that business could be trusted to police itself. It was only last month that BP, lobbying for new deepwater drilling, testified to Congress that additional equipment and inspection wasn’t needed.

You should meet some of these little bureaucrats with the fat rule books. Like Dan Lawn, the inspector from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, who warned and warned and warned, before the Exxon Valdez grounding, that BP and Alyeska were courting disaster in their arrogant disregard of the rule book. In 2006, I printed his latest warnings about BP’s culture of negligence. When the choice is between Lawn’s rule book and a bag of tea, Lawn’s my man.

This just in: Becnel tells me that one of the platform workers has informed him that the BP well was apparently deeper than the 18,000 feet depth reported. BP failed to communicate that additional depth to Halliburton crews, who, therefore, poured in too small a cement cap for the additional pressure caused by the extra depth. So, it blew.

Why didn’t Halliburton check? “Gross negligence on everyone’s part,” said Becnel. Negligence driven by penny-pinching, bottom-line squeezing. BP says its worker is lying. Someone’s lying here, man on the platform or the company that has practiced prevarication from Alaska to Louisiana.

Creative Commons License
This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

by: Greg Palast, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

An excerpt from

Ugly Reality of Fracking


After her well water was contaminated by nearby fracking in 2006, Ernst decided to go public, showing visiting reporters how she could light her tap water on fire, and speaking out about Alberta land owners’ problems with the industry, especially Calgary-based EnCana. EnCana is Canada’s second biggest energy company (after Suncor) and is now also a major player in British Columbia, with hundreds of natural-gas wells in the province.

Ernst, a biologist and environmental consultant to the oil and gas industry, says EnCana “told us ‘we would never fracture near your water.’ But the company fracked into our aquifer in that same year [2004].” By 2005, she says, “My water began dramatically changing, going bad. I was getting horrible burns and rashes from taking a shower, and then my dogs refused to drink the water. That’s when I began to pay attention.” More than fifteen water-wells had gone bad in the little community.

Tests revealed high levels of ethane, methane, and benzene in Ernst’s water. “EnCana told us they use the same gelled [fracking] fluids as in the States.” Fracking has become a huge controversy in the US, with pending legislation that would impact its regulation.

Ernst says she heard from “at least fifty other landowners the first year” she went public, and she continues to get calls. Groundwater contamination from fracking “is pretty widespread” in Alberta, “but they’re trying to keep it hidden.” Canada has no national water standards and conducts little information gathering about groundwater.

Read the complete article at  Ugly Reality of Fracking

Tip of the hat to FrackMountain for bringing this article to our attention.

Tags: , , , ,

Toxics Targeting reports:

See’s Resources & Documents page for
Pennsylvania DEP cease & desist order against US Energy

So, why is US Energy still allowed to do business in New York State?

And DEC thinks it can handle

more drilling?

Tags: , , , , , ,

Jerry Lobdill comments on a situation in Virginia:

While this well may be a vertical well, if their results are positive they will come back for horizontal well drilling permits. Secondly, you should consider that once an aquifer is polluted, remediation is not possible. So the idea of monitoring the work and the condition of the ground water will only deliver prompt information that the water is no longer clean if things don’t go well. The drinking water source will be lost forever, essentially. So how do you justify a proposed fine for that?

Regarding fracking the shale, thousands of feet below the surface, it may or may not directly cause pollution of drinking water sources close to the surface, but there is one aspect of the wells that most likely is responsible for some of the many, many reports from all over the US of tap water containing combustible gas.  It is the problem of failed cementing in the well bore.

In Texas drillers are required to cement gas wells from the surface to a depth somewhat exceeding the depth of the water table.  Here, drillers point to this fact and the fact that the Barnett Shale lies about 7000 feet below the surface to back up their claim that the contamination could not possibly come from their wells. Actually, these facts are essential to the explanation of the presence of gas in tap water.

Have you ever seen a flagstone sidewalk that didn’t have cracks in some places between the mortar and the stones? This common situation is caused by weather and small ground motion effects that put stress on the interface between the stones and the mortar. In a well bore if the walls of the bore are not completely clean when the cementing is done the bond will be poor. Additionally, the interface between the casing and the cement is a weak point as the well ages because of the difference in the mechanical properties of cement and steel. Over time both of these interfaces of the cement with the casing and well bore will deteriorate.

When the bond fails the gas pressure in the well will cause the raw gas with its entrained liquids to find its way up the bore to geologic formations that contain the water that is used for drinking in homes.

How often do drillers achieve a good cement job? Dale Henry says not often.  Dale Henry ran for TX RRC and lost in the last election. Dale (now retired) is the Red Adair of the well cementing problem world. He had a company that repaired wells with leaky cement jobs. He also cemented new wells. He says that drillers do not generally pay close attention to preparing the well bore. It is apparently a big problem.

In my opinion, the best policy is “Just say NO.”

Just my $0.02.

Jerry Lobdill
Ch. E. and physicist (ret.)
Fort Worth, TX.

Tags: , , ,

From The Sun Gazette, 3/17:

Spill from drill site likely contains 2-butoxyethanol

WATERVILLE – A substance used in the natural gas drilling process is discoloring and distorting the texture of spring water running off a Cummings Township sidehill.

. . . . .

The mysterious substance was seen flowing down the slope, under the road and into Pine Creek, said Daniel T. Spadoni, spokesman for DEP’s northcentral region office. Officials from another state agency alerted DEP.

“We were notified (Monday) morning by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” Spadoni said. “There was a white foamy material discharging from a spring down the hill.”

. . . . .

Terming it a surfactant, Spadoni said a substance known as Airfoam HD was causing the water run-off to be unnatural in appearance.

. . . . .

Surfactant used to treat Pennsylvania General Energy wells affected the water run-off, which Spadoni said had nothing to do with hydrofracturing.

Workers for the Warren-based energy company are drilling five wells in the area, high above the road, but he said they have yet to reach the point of using highly pressurized water to break the rock underneath the ground.

They were using the whitening substance as a lubricant that lowers the surface tension between air and water, according to Spadoni.

A receptionist answering a Pennsylvania General Energy phone Tuesday afternoon said company officials were not available to comment.

“They’re attempting to determine what caused this problem and what actions they can take to stop it,” Spadoni said of energy company representatives, with whom DEP members have been communicating.

The only precaution Spadoni recommended to residents is to avoid the suspicious spring water run-off in the area.

“I don’t think you would want to drink this discharge,” he said.

The substance leaking down the hill isn’t listed as dangerous on a Material Safety Data Sheet, according to Spadoni.

“I don’t believe there are concerns about drinking water in Waterville at this time,” Spadoni said, adding that area residents can continue regularly using tap water in their homes.

The investigation will continue.

“We don’t know for sure what its chemical composition is,” Spadoni said.

-end of excerpt of Sun Gazette article-


Now, you have to wonder what Material Safety Data Sheet Spadoni is talking about.  The one copied below says the component of Airfoam HD is 2-butoxyethanol, also known as 2BE, which is linked to a particular kind of adrenal tumor that’s rare… unless you happen to be Laura Amos, who was exposed to 2BE, got that adrenal tumor, and wrote the following (click above on her name for complete text):

In August 2004 I came across a memo written to the US Forest Service and BLM Regional offices in Delta County, describing the health hazard posed by a chemical used in fluids that are injected underground to enhance the release of methane. Dr. Theo Colborn of Paonia, Colorado submitted the memo in response to decisions that were being made in Delta County by the government officials to allow gas exploration and development on the Grand Mesa. Colborn is the President of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Inc (TEDX) and for over 10 years directed the World Wildlife Fund’s Wildlife and Contaminants Program. She has been honored worldwide for her focus on the effects of synthetic chemicals on human and wildlife health. The focus of Colborn’s memo was on a chemical called 2BE, used in fracturing fluids.

The following information was taken from Colborn’s report: “2BE is a highly soluble, colorless liquid with a very faint, ether like odor.” She wrote that at the concentration to be used in Delta county 2BE might not be detectable through odor or taste. “2-BE has a low volatility, vaporizes slowly when mixed with water and remains well dissolved throughout the water column.” “It mobilizes in soil and can easily leach into groundwater.” “It could remain entrapped underground for years.”

She noted it is readily absorbed by the skin and can easily be inhaled as it off-gasses in the home. Colborn cited the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Profile that listed the following effects of 2-BE: kidney damage, kidney failure, toxicity to the spleen, the bones in the spinal column and bone marrow, liver cancer, anemia, female fertility reduction, embryo mortality, and the biggie that got my attention – elevated numbers of combined malignant and non-malignant tumors of the adrenal gland.

-end of excerpt-

Here’s the MSDS that Spadoni mentions, but, hmmm, maybe just hadn’t read?

"Component: 2-butoxyethanol"

A deep bow and sweeping tip of the hat to Nastassja Noell for the Material Safety Data Sheet.

For more on this story, and more photos, see
Citizens Alarmed By Foam Discharge

Tags: , , , , , ,

…of the 17 families [whose water has been affected] I am aware of they are not all seniors-some are younger with children. They are not all within 1000 feet of the Gesford site which was the site where the gas company contaminated the aquifer with methane gas which did not come from the Marcellus but from gas above it- isotopic testing was done. The activities of the gas company have altered the water quality in our valley and above. Today I have bubbles. Others have a film on their dishes and their animals are extremely thirsty all the time. Some families get water from the gas company most buy and haul water in. The gas company has stated that unless DEP orders them to provide water they do not have to. Also DEP does not have an accurate record of who is not drinking their water and why. Water wells are private and not regulated by DEP. So unless the water well owner calls them with a complaint they are unaware of any problems. My question is how can the “on going investigation” be accurate if all the information is not compiled. The missing info could be the key.

The gas migration issue is still being investigated-the headlines were misleading stating no fracking fluids found in Dimock water supply….the violation was that the company contaminated the aquifer-fact-they did.

As far as the “promises” we were all promised great compensation- “you’ll see $90,000 a year on as little as 5 acres! or “you won’t be living in this trailer next year. You’ll have a nice new house.” Nothing was ever disclosed to most of us concerning the nature and scope of the industrialization of our community – ONE well was mentioned with the infamous little Christmas tree pipe to mark its location. Drive around our neighborhood- you will see tall vents on water wells, jugs of water behind homes, and disillusioned folks inside the same homes they had 3 years ago. The dwindling royalty checks will soon equal the amount of money some of us spend on buying water…

Tags: , , , , ,

“Downstream Strategies, the company I used to analyze the water forwarded the WVDEP report to me and they said that all of their questions were not answered from the WVDEP which they requested under the FOIA.  The just sent a second FOIA request to get the info they originally asked.  Sen. Rockefeller’s office out of Fairmont called me last Thursday (I sent a letter and pictures to him in D.C.) and said they wanted to make sure the Governor had responded to me (he did) and that I had  received the answers I had been seeking.   After I found out they had to do a 2nd FOIA request I called them back and left a message, suggesting a phone call from them to James Martin would be helpful.
“The creek cleaning consisted of the drilling company spraying the rocks and gunk downstream into cachment areas and then being vacuumed up.  My concern was the high orange marks in the sandy soil going up the banks and being imbedded into the soil.  I don’t know if they addressed that or not, they may not have even seen that.  Also they had pulled the used filters out of the creek and had left them on the soil for some time also.  Those were recently picked up though.    I am coming back from Colorado and will be there Wednesday for a week and will spend some time going up and down the creek looking closely.  I guess the lack of rain and low water has hindered the process.  My new beef is that if a drilling company, the ones who produce this toxic waste, will be cleaning up their own mess, they really need to know what they are doing and have a plan in place.  According the report from officer Scranage, per the DEP report I just read, he found that a new crew was on the job the second day and was going about it backwards. If the water is low and there is a lack of rain to help move the water down into cachment areas, they need to be doing something else, rather than waiting for rain.  For the first  2 weeks the creek languished with oil covering the water and smelling acrid. I believe they improperly ‘limed the area’ on our property.  When I questioned the inspectors and also asked James Martin about all the lime put down along the stream banks, changing the ph of the water, he only said ‘there won’t be any more liming’.
“Thanks again for the support.”
Louanne Fatora


Tags: , , , , , , , ,