Burning Questions: Quarantined Cows Give Birth to Dead Calves

Burning Questions: Quarantined Cows Give Birth to Dead Calves by Susan Phillips, September 27, 2011, NPR
DEP says they have concluded their investigation and fined East Resources more than $36,000. … In late April 2010, drilling waste water from a large storage pond leaked through its plastic liner and flowed onto a cow pasture in Shippen Township, Tioga County. Farmers Don and Carol Johnson found the leak, along with the hoof prints of 28 beef cattle who had wandered through and possibly drank the contaminated water. The waste water came from a well that had been fracked on their property by East Resources. When tested, the water contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium. The spill killed all vegetation in an area 30 feet by 40 feet. In early May, Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture quarantined the cows, worried that the resulting beef could be tainted and make people sick. East Resources objected to the quarantine, saying it was an unnecessary step to take. It was Pennsylvania’s first quarantine resulting from gas drilling. 

Of the original cows, only ten yearlings are still quarantined. But Johnson says of the eleven calves born this spring, only 3 have survived. “It’s abominable,” says Johnson, who along with her husband Don, has been raising cows on that land for 53 years, after taking over the farm from Don Johnson’s grandfather. “They were born dead or extremely weak. It’s highly unusual,” she said. “I might lose one or two calves a year, but I don’t lose eight out of eleven.” … Shell Oil and Gas has since taken over East Resources, and now controls the lease. Johnson says she wants Shell to buy her entire herd of cattle and start fresh. And she warns hunters she sees near her property not to eat any of the game they catch. “Deer, grouse, rabbits, they’re up on that [well] pad licking,” she says. “They don’t know what’s in the water….The whole thing has become one big mess.”

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