BUCKHANNON – Of all the water on Earth, only a precious 1 percent is available for human consumption. Indeed, ninety-seven percent is ocean water, which is salty or otherwise undrinkable, while another 2 percent is locked in ice caps or glaciers.
That’s the point April Pierson-Keating – co-founder of the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance – was hoping to drive home at last week’s regular Upshur County Commission meeting. Pierson-Keating appeared before commission president Terry Cutright and commissioners Troy “Buddy” Brady and Sam Nolte with a demonstration she used to highlight how small the amount of water available for humans to drink is in proportion to all the water available on Earth.
Pierson-Keating and the MLPA – which promotes clean water and clean energy through education and advocacy – is opposed to the development of the 600-mile-long 42-inch pipeline project known as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will transport natural gas between West Virginia and eastern North Carolina.
At the commission’s Feb. 16 meeting, it tabled signing and approving a resolution stating its support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project after Pierson-Keating and other concerned citizens urged the commission to study the issue in further depth. A joint venture of Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas, the pipeline is expected to stretch from the northwestern to the southeastern portions of Upshur County.
At Thursday’s meeting, Pierson-Keating returned, she said, to show the commission just how valuable clean water is to the survival of human beings and the planet they inhabit – and how the natural gas industry’s development of pipelines like the ACP threatens the purity of the water, and ultimately, human, animal and plant health.
“I’m here to talk about the importance of clean water and how easy it is to toxify it,” Pierson-Keating said.
Armed with deep blue dye, a tall beaker, a dropper and a glass jar of clean water, Pierson-Keating also demonstrated the proportion of chemicals natural gas companies infuse into water they use for hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking – the process by which fracking fluid is injected into rocks to create cracks in deep rock formations; natural gas then seeps more freely through these cracks.
Utilizing the dye to represent the chemicals present in fracking fluid, Pierson-Keating used an eye dropper to place one-fifth of the amount natural gas companies “claim” they insert into the fluid, she said. Almost immediately, the entire jar of formerly clear water turned into a dark blue color.
“Imagine that this has the fracking chemicals plus the things that are brought out of the Earth,” Pierson-Keating said to the commissioners. “So, would you like a drink?”
All three of the commissioners declined.
Pierson-Keating said, “I just wanted to bring up the fact that there are elements in fracking water that are harmful to human health. Some of the chemicals that are used are carcinogens, endocrine disrupters and radiation.”
According to a handout Pierson-Keating delivered to the commission and meeting attendees, fracking chemicals can cause cancer; disrupt sperm production; cause infertility and hormone imbalances; and affect the thyroid, adrenal glands and pituitary gland.
The radiation in fracking chemicals may cause leukemia, bone cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, the handout states. Moreover, workers in the natural gas industry have an accident rate seven times that of all other industries, Pierson-Keating said, and are exposed to silica dust, benzene, toluene, ethylene, xylene, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde, strontium, radium and hydrogen sulfide.
No decisions were made regarding commission approval of the proposed resolution in support of the ACP project; however, the commissioners thanked Pierson-Keating for her presentation.