This time it’s in Maryland.
The University of Maryland study, released Monday, warns that drilling and fracking for natural gas will harm the health of workers, residents, and communities in Western Maryland. Commissioned in 2011 by executive order of Gov. Martin O’Malley, the study looked at the risks that fracking would bring to Maryland, which at this moment doesn’t have any natural gas wells.
The study’s report ranked the likelihood of several risk factors associated with drilling and fracking. There is a “high likelihood” of gas development causing air pollution that could harm nearby residents as well as drilling crews.The report predicts 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. “These social hazards also put a strain on communities, as evidenced by increased incidence in violent crime arrests, drug violations, and sexually transmitted infections,” the report reads.
Though fracking would bring jobs to Maryland, according to the report those jobs come with a “greater risk of harmful occupational exposures than many other industries in Maryland.”
“Of particular concern are exposures to crystalline silica, hydrogen sulfide, and diesel particulate matter, as well as fatalities from truck accidents, which accounted for 49% of oil and gas extraction fatalities in 2012,” the report reads.
Drilling and fracking is not just hazardous to workers. The report highlights the dangers to residents who live near gas wells, including “throat & nasal irritation, sinus problems, eye burning, severe headaches, persistent cough, skin rashes, and frequent nose bleeds,” all of which have been documented in other fracking states including Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. The report also pointed out that disadvantaged populations, including children, the sick and the elderly could be more at risk from the dangers of fracking.
The report offers 52 recommendations for assessing and offsetting potential impacts. A partial list includes:
- review of health impacts
- proposals of ways to protect workers and residents from pollution
- air, water, and soil health monitoring plans
- drilling companies be required to disclose all chemicals used in fracking
- restrict injection wells
“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.
Rebecca Ruggles, director of the Maryland Environmental Health Network, said the report leaves a number of unanswered 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.
Maryland Fracking Study Cites Toxic Air Emissions as Top Concern
Drilling-wary Maryland is one of several East Coast states considering whether to open their lands to fracking as public health concerns mount