Public Health issues with water and air impacts

I am here to convince you suspected water impacts from natural gas development are an emerging public health issue, a new frontier, and to ask you make it routine policy to have the PA DOH perform in vitro toxic assays on drinking water sources with suspected impacts from natural gas development in conjunction with PA DEP investigations. 

This is just a working draft of a statement I prepared for a meeting with the PA Physician General Dr Levine , Sec PA DOH Murphy, PA DEP Sec Quigley

Rebecca Roter
575 Turnpike Rd
Kingsley PA 18826
August 6,2014 Harrisburg PA Meeting

I am here to convince you suspected water impacts from natural gas development are an emerging public health issue, a new frontier, and to ask you make it routine policy to have the PA DOH perform in vitro toxic assays on drinking water sources with suspected impacts from natural gas development in conjunction with PA DEP investigations. This ask is a direct result of my personal experience with real impacts to my well water at my Brooklyn PA Susquehanna County home. None of us in this room are average citizens as all of us have our eye on the common good be we public servants or citizen advocates. I would be lying to you if I did not tell you I experienced the lowest most desperate emotional points in my 54 years of life this past year after my well water came up smelling like chemicals April 3, 2014.. I knew there were chemicals in my water, and felt abandoned by every state agency I reached out to for help. As a responsible tax paying citizen having to carry full 5 gallon water jugs weighing about 40 lbs across snow and ice to have safe drinking and cooking water for my dogs myself and my 82 year old dad who has Alzhiemers and osteoporosis in -20 degree weather as a matter of daily survival was very depressing

When I turned on my kitchen faucet the eve of April 3, 2014, I was transported back to organic college chemistry lab by the smell of my tap water. The smell took my breath away , left my lips dry ,made my tongue feel dry and coated,, and made my throat feel sore and tight. Prior to that night I had been experiencing ulcerated gums, swollen glands, what I thought was a painful hot tooth abscess, and lesions on my hard palate all documented by a visit to my dentist. I had been experiencing dry itchy fiery red hot skin rashes all over my body, I thought my hair conditioner was not working, and my thirst seemed insatiable. I thought I was getting a stomach ulcer, and I could not figure out why my dogs had diarrhea. I also had a sinus infection and an ear infection to be diagnosed the next day Friday April 4, 2014. The instant I smelled my water I knew in a flash it could be the reason for my health issues and my dogs diarrhea. I realized my perceived insatiable thirst was actually chemicals drying out my mouth when the driller asked me on April 4, 2014 if my water left my mouth feeling dry
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We stopped using the well water for drinking, cooking and showering the night of April 3, 2014 when we smelled the chemicals. I purchased an 1100 gallon water buffalo for $740 and had it put in my front yard. We only used the buffalo for showering due to the expense of commercial water deliveries. I used 18 five gallon jugs to get drinking and cooking water from the well of a friend who lives 15 minutes away. A full 5 gallon just weighs upwards of 40 lbs. Last summer I was dreading winter as I knew I would need to build a shed around the buffalo insulate it and anticipate dealing with frozen water lines and pumps all on my own. I researched options like a water bladder or two smaller buffaloes that would fit through the door into my heated basement. PA DEP’s first sampling found nothing remarkable in my water and the field rep and PA DOH discounted my hydrologist’s identification of two organics, trimethyl solinol and 2,5,5, trimethyl-2 hexene. PA DEP and PA DOH asserted these findings were contamination due to inadequate field protocol: no trip or field blank. As the state was telling me there was nothing wrong with my water and the operator’s independent testing found nothing remarkable, I was considering using the suspect well water during the winter just for showering as I was overwhelmed by the prospect of finding replacement water on my own during the impending cold winter months. I wanted to believe PA DEP, I wanted to believe nothing was wrong with my water but knew what I had smelled and my health impacts were all too real to ignore. Once I stopped using my well water all my symptoms resolved as did my dogs diarrhea

Dr Lynn Crosby PHD Toxicology USGS performed a toxic assay using human liver cells on 5 wells in my county including mine after I noticed the strong chemical smell. She shared the preliminary not reviewed results with me during the time period I was feeling worn down and was considering using my well water. She told me my assay had some cell death but felt that was consistent with the organics identified in my well water. She recommended I not use my well water. Dr. Crosby reached out to Pat Farnelli and advised her she should not use her well water as it was not safe to use based upon her toxic assay. The Farnelli’s water had been tested numerous times by PA DEP and they never got replacement water from the operator and still use their well water to this day. Dr Crosby jolted me back to my senses and I bought two 300 gallon buffaloes took my basement door off and set the buffaloes up in my basement all with the help of a friend.

To date, 16 months later ,I am still on my own to find replacement water for myself and my 82 year old father who lives with me; he has severe osteoporosis and Alzheimers. I do not have a determination letter from PA DEP. I am fortunate I could afford to buy a water buffalo, pay for water deliveries, and that I am fit enough to carry numerous 40lb 5 gallon jugs of water for cooking and drinking across snow and ice. The water chemistries generated by my hydrologist, by Moody, and by PA DEP do not agree and are inconclusive. The most recent results from my hydrologist identify low levels of organics and the field and trip blanks were negative.

At the end of the day, alone in my house with my dad, all I want to know is my water safe to use and for what. I do suspect a surface spill at a nearby pad is the most likely reason for organics in my well: there is no methane. I will never know what happened. But I do know my predrills were squeaky clean, and I am concerned about my health risks for chronic exposure to low levels of organic chemicals . Again I ask you to address the public health risks associated with water impacts from natural gas development, and to do in vitro toxic assays to provide citizens like myself with critical information about drinking water safety. This simple assay will provide useful public health information about the safety of drinking water without having to detect and identify chemicals. With the 30,000 more miles of pipe to move gas from all the additional wells to be drilled across shale counties like mine, my experience will not be an isolated or perhaps uncommon incident.

Name: Rebecca Roter