The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Grassroots Environmental Education, a nonprofit organization that organized and facilitated meetings between medical professionals, scientists and senior staff from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York Department of Health as well as representatives from the Governor's office, released a summary report today of those meetings which identifies 20 important public health concerns related to gas drilling in New York State. The report was delivered to meeting participants and the commissioners of both agencies this morning.
"As more independent science on hydrofracking operations becomes available, the full dimension of the potential health impacts is becoming more evident" says Patti Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environment Education and organizer of the meetings. "These are very serious issues, and the emerging science brings into question whether they can ever be answered successfully."
The document released, Summary Report: Human Health Risks and Exposure Pathways of Proposed Horizontal Hydrofracking in New York State identifies twenty concerns discussed at the meetings or contained in documents furnished to participants. These include:
• Handling and disposal of radioactive wastewater and sludge
• Accidents involving transportation of radioactive/chemical waste
• Unpredicted synergistic catalyzation and interactions with radioactive material
• Groundwater contamination from leaking storage containers, abandoned wells and failed casings
• High levels of radon in natural gas from Marcellus shale
• Respirable crystalline silica exposure of workers and nearby populations
• Air contamination from diesel engines at drilling sites and in local communities
• Air contamination from flaring
• Impacts fall disproportionately on sensitive populations (children, elderly, pregnant women)
• Increased health care costs
"When there's a public health emergency, the primary objective is to stop the exposure," says Dr. David Brown, a public health toxicologist with the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project which is helping sick people get medical care in areas of Pennsylvania with active fracking operations. "We try to help people whose water is contaminated and whose air is severely degraded. We tell them to test their water, stay inside, keep their windows closed, take their shoes off, that kind of thing. But really, at this point there are situations where there's not much we can do for them. There's no way for impacted individuals to stop the exposure."
In addition to Dr. Brown, participants in the meetings in Albany included Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany; Dr. Ron Bishop, Department of Chemistry, SUNY Oneonta; Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Paul Rubin, HydroQuest; and Dr. Sheila Bushkin, public health and preventive medicine consultant.
"We fully support calls for an independent health impact assessment, and this report should not be interpreted as endorsing the internal review proposed by the DEC," says Wood. "But regardless of who does the assessment, each of the public health issues raised in this report must be thoroughly addressed before any decisions are made. Many of our experts concur that some of the more critical issues may indeed be irresolvable."
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.