You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects by Walter Brasch + Fracking Hell?

by Walter Brasch
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
February 23, 2013

American Gasland

Image by Marcellus Protest via Flickr

José Lara just wanted a job.

A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks. Clean off the debris. Make them shining again.

And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co.

“The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish.

The company that had hired him didn’t provide him a respirator or protective clothing. That’s not unusual in the natural gas fields.

José Lara did his job until he no longer could work.

At the age of 42, he died from pancreatic and liver cancer.

Accidents, injuries, and health problems are not all that unusual in the booming natural gas industry that uses horizontal hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, to invade the earth in order to extract methane gas.

Of the 750 chemicals that can be used in the fracking process, more than 650 of them are toxic or carcinogens, according to a report filed with the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2011. Several public health studies reveal that homeowners living near fracked wells show higher levels of acute illnesses than homeowners living outside the “Sacrifice Zone,” as the energy industry calls it.

In addition to toxic chemicals and high volumes of water, the energy industry uses silica sand in the mixture it sends at high pressure deep into the earth to destroy the layers of rock. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) issued a Hazard Alert about the effects of crystalline silica. According to NIOSH there are seven primary sources of exposure during the fracking process, all of which could contribute to workers getting silicosis, the result of silica entering lung tissue and causing inflammation and scarring. Excessive silica can also lead to kidney and autoimmune diseases, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In the Alert, NIOSH pointed out that its studies revealed about 79 percent of all samples it took in five states exceeded acceptable health levels, with 31 percent of all samples exceeding acceptable health levels by 10 times. However, the Hazard Alert is only advisory; it carries no legal or regulatory authority.

In addition to the normal diesel emissions of trucks and trains, there are numerous incidents of leaks, some of several thousand gallons, much of which spills onto roadways and into creeks, from highway accidents of tractor-trailer trucks carrying wastewater and other chemicals.

The process of fracking requires constant truck travel to and from the wells, as many as 200 trips per day per well. Each day, interstate carriers transport about five million gallons of hazardous materials. Not included among the daily 800,000 shipments are the shipments by intrastate carriers, which don’t have to report their cargo deliveries to the Department of Transportation. “Millions of gallons of wastewater produced a day, buzzing down the road, and still nobody’s really keeping track,” Myron Arnowitt, the Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action, told AlterNet.

Drivers routinely work long weeks, have little time for rest, and hope they’ll make enough to get that house they want for their families.

But fatigue causes accidents. And contrary to industry claims, workers don’t always wear protective gear when around toxic chemicals they put into the earth, and the toxic chemicals they extract from the earth. Or the toxic chemicals they drive on public roads.

In the Great Recession, people become desperate for any kind of job. And the natural gas industry has responded with high-paying jobs. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is ecstatic that a side benefit of destroying the environment and public health is an improvement in the economy and more jobs—even if most of the workers in Pennsylvania now sport license plates from Texas and Oklahoma.

The drivers, and most of the industry, are non-union or are hired as independent contractors with no benefits. The billion dollar corporations like it that way. It means there are no worker safety committees. No workplace regulations monitored by the workers. And if a worker complains about a safety or health violation, there’s no grievance procedure. Hire them fast. Fire them faster.

No matter how much propaganda the industry spills out about its safety record and how it cares about its workers, the reality is that working for a company that fracks the earth is about as risky as it gets for worker health and safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Rain for Rent nine violations for exposing José Lara to hydrogen sulfide and not adequately protecting him from the effects of the cyanide-like gas.

It no longer matters to José Lara.

The effects from fracking should matter to everyone else.

Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor emeritus of mass communications. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth analysis of the effects of fracking upon public health, the environment, worker safety, and agriculture. Dr. Brasch also investigates the history of energy policies in the U.S. and the relationships between the energy companies and politicians at local, state, and federal levels. The book is available at,, or local bookstores.


[DS added the videos.]

Fracking Hell? – Poland’s Dash for Gas

linktv·Feb 27, 2013

The “dash for gas” has gone East and the fracking multinationals have moved in to secure the sizable shale deposits lying deep in Poland’s underbelly. Advocates say this will bring prosperity and jobs, but opponents cite the US experience — where fracking has been marred by environmental and social concerns — and fear it could be the final nail in the coffin for Poland’s traditional rural communities.

Watch more at


Fracking Hell? – Britain’s Gas Rush

linktv·Feb 27, 2013

Across the UK, Britain’s green, picturesque land is facing uncertainty after the arrival of fracking. The specter of gas wells and drilling sites, articulated trucks, waste lagoons, and other fracking detritus hangs heavy in a land more typically associated with small scale farming, cricket on the green, and “cottage” industries. But, not prepared to see their landscape altered forever, a new wave of citizen activists is gearing up to fight back.


Fracking Hell? – South Africa’s Gas Dilemma

linktv·Feb 20, 2013

Caught between the promise of prosperity that natural gas extraction in the Karoo Basin might bring and concerns about environmental and health impacts, citizen resistance to fracking is growing in the Republic of South Africa. Earth Focus correspondent Jeff Barbee reports.


Capitalism Stands As A Death Sentinel Over Planetary Life by Chris Williams

The Global Water Grab by Shiney Varghese

Fracking’s Lure, Trap and Endless Damage by Ralph Nader

Will New York be Just Another Sacrifice Zone so the Fossil Fuel Industry can Pollute Our Water, Contaminate Our Land and Frack Billions in Profits? by Jill Dalton

Fracked: New Yorkers Visit the Marcellus Shale + Disembowelling the Planet + Let Them Drink Methane. And Arsenic

Fracking: Pennsylvania Gags Physicians, Part 1 by Walter Brasch

10 thoughts on “You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects by Walter Brasch + Fracking Hell?

  1. Pingback: Fracking America’s Food Supply by Walter Brasch | Dandelion Salad

  2. Pingback: Only You Can Prevent Fracking by Peter Rugh | Dandelion Salad

  3. Pingback: Pennsylvania: You Are Fracked by Walter Brasch | Dandelion Salad

  4. Pingback: Sandra Steingraber: The Toxic Assault on Our Children | Dandelion Salad

  5. Pingback: Fracking records unsealed in Pennsylvania by Betsey Piette | Dandelion Salad

  6. Pingback: Happy International Water Day! | Dandelion Salad

  7. Pingback: Corporatism is the True Face of Terrorism by Siv O’Neall | Dandelion Salad

  8. Ecocidal disease production is now the largest coordinated growth industry on earth.

    While our “scarcest” resource appears to be natural human intelligence.

    My conviction is that human beings can arrest the tide of destruction IF we can liberate the confidence to act from innate wisdom and ORGANIZE for sustainability.

    The politicized corporate “programme” is ecocide disguised as productive “growth.” The cure is affirmative action for the intelligent environment, “wild” law, intelligent biophilia and creative biomicry.

    The fact is, the diverse consensus FOR NATURE is the intelligent majority. The forces that oppose Nature are the forces off death. The biggest mugs with the stupidest thugs are a pathological minority. Their machinery of destruction is not an invincible force. It is supremely vulnerable, that is why they are so desperate.

    We must ORGANIZE FOR LIFE be Idle No More!

Comments are closed.