Frac’ing could threaten air quality, workers’ and public health, University of Maryland report says

Fracking could threaten air quality, workers’ health, latest report says, A Maryland report on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, said the oil-drilling process could affect public health by Darryl Fears, August 18, 2014, Washington Post 
The report is the second of three called for under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2011 executive order to study hydraulic fracturing…. O’Malley (D) said studies of drilling impacts were required before a natural gas well could be built in Maryland. A third and final study funded by the Natural Resources and Environment departments is expected soon.

Several oil and gas companies have sought drilling permits and leased private land in hopes of exploring natural gas opportunities in remote Garrett County, home to the popular Deep Creek Lake. Their aim is to build wells in the Marcellus Shale, a 95,000-square-mile rock formation that stretches from Ohio to Virginia, where gas has been entombed for about 380 million years.

The University of Maryland report presented Monday relied on numerous studies of drilling sites to warn that air pollution associated with gas exploration increased the risk of “adverse birth outcomes including congenital heart defects . . . sinus problems, eye burning, severe headaches, persistent cough and skin rashes.”

The report also found that traffic fatalities accounted for nearly half of underground gas exploration fatalities. [Emphasis added]

UM study warns of health impacts from fracking, High likelihood seen of air pollution, strains on health care, social problems by Timothy B. Wheeler, August 18, 2014, The Baltimore Sun
The study, released Monday, raises the stakes for a long-running state review of safeguards needed before gas extraction can proceed using fracturing. … Produced by the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, part of the university’s public health school, the study foresees a “high likelihood” of gas development causing air pollution that could harm nearby residents as well as drilling crews. It also warns of strains on the health care system in Garrett and Allegany counties and increases in crime, drug abuse, traffic accidents and other social problems from the influx of gas industry workers.

The study further predicts “moderately high” likelihood of problems with water, soil and noise pollution from fracking.

The UM report, commissioned by the Maryland Department of the Environment and state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, offers 52 recommendations for assessing and offsetting potential impacts. It urges that drilling companies be required to disclose all chemicals used in fracking, calls for restricting injection of wastewater into the ground and proposes more study of how far drilling should be from homes.

State officials say many of the recommendations mirror those in a report released last month cataloging [voluntary, unenforceable] “best practices” that drilling companies have adopted or been required to follow in other states. State officials say they’ll take public comment on the UM report until Oct. 3 and review it in consultation with an advisory commission named three years ago by Gov. Martin O’Malley. The panel, which met again Monday in Frostburg, is expected to issue its final report this fall. The state has been under a de facto drilling moratorium during the review.

Rebecca Ruggles, director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network, said the report leaves unanswered a number of questions that have been raised about potential health and safety problems. She called on the state to continue research before deciding whether to permit drilling in the state.

“If Maryland decides to allow hydraulic fracturing, this report places a heavy burden on the state to demonstrate that it can adequately address these health concerns,” said Tim Whitehouse, executive director of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. [Emphasis added]

Maryland Fracking Impact Report by Scott Wykoff and Associated Press, August 18, 2014, WBAL 1090 AM
Dr. Clifford Mitchell, environmental health director with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is making a presentation on the report Monday in Frostburg to a state commission charged with recommending safe drilling practices. … The report will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. It comes as the safe-drilling commission nears completion of its work, with a final report expected this fall.

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