Citizens Gather to Protest Toxic Wastewater Dumping in the Monongahela River
Time: 12:00 p.m
Address: 1 North State Street Clairton, PA 15025-2172
Clairton, PA - On Thursday, November 4 protesters gathered at noon at the Clairton Municipal Water Authority's front entrance to oppose dumping untreated wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling into the Monongahela River, the source of drinking water for 350,000 people.
The Clairton Municipal Authority is one of 14 water plants that dispose of waste water from the hydraulic fracturing drilling process for extracting gas from Marcellus Shale. During drilling, the water is injected with sand and hundreds of dangerous, cancerous chemicals into the shale layer where it is exposed to radiation and toxins stored beneath the Earth before flowing back.
Loretta Weir, a founder of Communities United for Rights and Environment (CURE), travelled from her home in Lincoln Place to protest. She said, “This is the water for baby formula and bathing our children downstream. If corporations are going to be granted the same rights as citizens, then the DEP should not be permitting this dumping to happen. If you or I dumped toxins like benzene and bromide into the Mon river, we’d be thrown in jail.”
Clairton Municipal Authority is permitted to discharge 40,000 gallons of drilling waste a day into Peters Creek that flows into the Monongahela River. The plant is located directly across from the U.S. Steel coke works where federal Environmental Protection Agency inspectors regularly monitor water and air quality. Currently, the process of hydraulic fracturing is not regulated by the EPA due to the Halliburton loophole.
CURE spokesperson Ken Weir said, “We the people are here to demand that our Pennsylvania constitutional rights to clean water be upheld. General Tom Corbett, tighten your boot straps because we’re here to stay. Our movement’s only getting stronger. After only five months organizing in Pittsburgh, we put 800 people on the streets on a weekday to march on the DUG East conference yesterday. This is the long haul and we’re ready to win and stop this abuse of our public health and environment.”
Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd, of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health Center for Healthy Environment and Communities, during a panel sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the Squirrel Hill Jewish Community Center on October 11, said "We are very concerned about fluid disposal from gas industry operations such as flow back fluids and produced fluids.”
Christen continued, “We have figures on the permitted gallons of disposed fluids allowed for 14 waste disposal facilities in the Monongahela Watershed. These figures add up to a total of 612,000 to 2,112,000 of gallons of waste per day. In a study published in the journal of the Society of Petroleum Engineers focusing on the concentrations of selected important contaminants from Marcellus Shale flow back water, there are approximately 161,636 mg/L total dissolved solids (TDS): 2, 950 mg/L of Barium: 3,280 mg/L of Strontium and 95,400 mg/L Chloride. Doing the calculations with the total disposed waste from the treatment facilities there is 824,825 lbs. of TDS, 15,053 lbs. of barium, 16,737 lbs. of strontium and 486,812 lbs. of chloride permitted disposal everyday into the Mon River. This is above and beyond the acid mine drainage flowing into the river.
Lastly, Christen said “We would strongly encourage zero discharge as soon as possible."
In regards to the health effects of the chemicals, Alex Lotorto, 23, graduate of Muhlenberg College, said, “Bromide is most commonly found in sedimentary rock formed from sea beds, like the Marcellus Shale layer. Bromide exposure has been linked to thyroid disease. Strontium exposure is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia. Symptoms of barium exposure include muscle fatigue or weakness, difficulty breathing, increased or decreased blood pressure, numbness of the face, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Extended exposure to high levels of barium has been found to cause changes in heart rhythm, kidney problems, significant weight loss, paralysis and death.”
The national Air Toxics Assessment report released in June 2009 calculated the cancer risk for Clairton residents at 762 in 1 million, and for nearby Glassport residents at 700 in 1 million, the third- and fourth-highest risk rates in the nation. The average national cancer risk last year was 36 in a million.
Communities United for Rights and Environment participates in the MarcellusProtest.org community coalition.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Water from Mon River loaded with 'particles'
State says Monongahela River exceeds OK levels for drinking water
State wants to tighten controls on waste water from gas wells
Mon Valley towns atop cancer list
On October 11th, Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd gave his testimony about some public health concerns associated with Marcellus Shale drilling to an audience of engaged community members. Click here to read his testimony (PDF).