The focus of the article below in Sunday’s Denver Post is on one midwife’s search for the answer to the question: why are there so many newborn deaths in Vernal, Utah? While it may seem as though Donna Young is the only person in Vernal who cares, there are researchers outside the region who do care and are hard at work studying infant and prenatal mortality rates near oil and gas production. One of those researchers is Dr. Susan Nagel and the important research she is conducting in Garfield County. She fully intends to establish a link between infant/prenatal defects and mortality, and the endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in drilling and fracking.
… Questions about drilling’s possible effect on infants and the unborn aren’t confined to this northeast corner of Utah. Late in 2013, an unusually high number of fetal anomalies in Glenwood Springs, 175 miles away in Colorado, were reported to state authorities. A study found no connection with drilling.
Concerns have been raised in other areas of heavy drilling, but no clusters have been documented. No dots have been connected. But there are some in the scientific and medical communities working to try to make a connection.
“I suspect it is real — that there is a relationship,” said Susan Nagel, Ph.D, a University of Missouri School of Medicine researcher who is focusing her studies on fracking-fluid chemicals that affect hormones …
Scads of medical studies have concluded that air pollution can harm embryos. Drilling is a documented contributor to that pollution. It is a given that some of the harmful chemicals released in drilling, like benzene, toluene and xylenes, can cross the placental barrier and cause heart, brain and spinal defects.
In two phases of research, she has gathered samples in Colorado’s Garfield County and is currently exposing pregnant mice to fracking fluids in her lab. She will be looking for effects on the offspring.
Nagel said it is too early to have results, but she won’t be surprised if there are effects from hormone-harming chemicals called “endocrine-disrupters.”
“Mechanistically, from what we know about endocrine-disrupting chemicals, it is highly plausible,” she said about linking the chemicals to fetal problems …
… Nagel said she is trying to establish a laboratory link that future researchers can then use as they study health effects in drilling areas…
If you read through the entire article, the denial on the part of the Vernal residents and the local physician is unnerving. It’s hard to believe people refuse to see something that’s right there in front of them. But I’m going to shut up now and let Bob Arrington take over.
How emissions from the Parachute Creek spill are related to the 2013 fetal anomalies in Garfield County
By Bob Arrington*
In December 2012, a spill started at the Parachute Bargath operated gas plant. [see Parachute Creek spill timeline reconstruction] It was not considered during the investigation by the Colorado Department of Health’s ensuing investigation of birth defects in Glenwood Springs.
But this massive release could reach every listed location from Meeker to Snowmass. The volume of the released hydrocarbons was 1000 fold, or more, over any single well site and liquids released were the essence of the most harmful.
Consider a rig in position for a 3- month period and what it would have as emissions. In Garfield County, the 2011 emissions for area sources was 55 tons/day per, for about 10,000 well locations or about 0.0055 tons/day/well pad. The 16-day period of the spill put between 92 and 102 tons/16 days or 5.75 tons/day minimum, or over a 1,000 times all the well O&G sources in Garfield County. Compare a well putting out 0.0055 tons/day at 10 miles to the spill putting out a 1,000 times that amount of 5.75 tons/day at 100 miles! Moreover, it wasn’t just the emissions of wellheads, it was the concentrated collection of those hydrocarbons separated from the natural gas methane. After the spill, ground clean-up and evaporation from that continued for several months into June, or longer, on the 20% or more that went into the ground.
Such HAPs, as benzene and acetone, can be carried back to ground by precipitation. Ken Kuster of CDPHE states “dispersed into the atmosphere and been carried out of the area.” The proper statement would have been “dispersed into the atmosphere to travel throughout the area of prevailing weather and air currents” where he thinks it was removed and inconsequential away from the gas plant. And while CDPHE checked for DBPs, they didn’t check for HAPs and as late as checks were made, contaminants could be long gone for any of the listed chemicals.
Further, this incident alone constitutes a common risk factor happening in the first trimester of 2013 pregnancies, with weather patterns able to carry to every location, and to able to be in both air and water temporarily from December 20th to March. This IS NOT pregnancies that happened, as Kuster states, “well after the spill/release,” but happened at a time coinciding right with the spill time frame. To make a statement by stating the clinics reported these in January 2014, “a year later” only places the spill at the opportune time to be significant!
*Bob Arrington is a retired engineer and the Battlement Mesa citizen representative on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board (EAB). He also represents the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the Battlement Concerned Citizens.