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Exposure to wastewater from natural gas fracking has violent effects on livestock and other animals, a new study shows (h/t Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Pipeline).In the latest evidence demonstrating the domestic natural gas goldrush has put the U.S. in uncharted environmental territory, Cornell University’s Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald found that chemicals used in the drilling process (the exact nature of which are trade secrets, they report) often end up in nearby watertables.
Animals exposed to this water, whether through ingestion, respiration or skin contact, have experienced major neurological, digestive, respiratory and reproductive problems. In one extreme case, 17 cows were killed in one hour when fracking fluid was directly released into a pasture.
Among their other findings:
- Out of 140 head of cattle exposed to wastewater, approximately 70 died. And there was a high incidence of stillborn and stunted calves
- Of the seven cattle farms studied in most detail, 50 per cent of a herd was affected by death and failure of survivors to breed
- One farm’s Boxer dog whelped a litter of 15 pups, seven of which were stillborn and eight of which died within 24 hours.
Not to mention the human toll the researchers found: farmers exposed to the water through cooking or bathing experienced nose, throat and eye burning; headaches; vomiting; and rashes.
According to Bloomberg’s Mike Di Paola, many farmers are already in litigation with drillers, the secrecy of whom has dragged out settlement negotiations.
“We don’t know what the chemicals are in a lot of these cases,” one farmer said. “It gets very frustrating when you start saying: What was in the tissue? What killed these animals exactly?”
Drillers have denied wrongdoing, dismissing the study as a series of anecdotes.
The research comes as President Obama touts the potential of natural gas. In his State of the Union address, Obama promised to develop the natural gas production “without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.” He also said he would require drillers to disclose the chemicals they use.
On that last point, it seems, he will meet some resistance.