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Beyond anecdotes Oil & gas health impacts and community response Nadia Steinzor Eastern Program Coordinator, Earthworks OGAP

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Presentation on theme: "Beyond anecdotes Oil & gas health impacts and community response Nadia Steinzor Eastern Program Coordinator, Earthworks OGAP"— Presentation transcript:

1 Beyond anecdotes Oil & gas health impacts and community response Nadia Steinzor Eastern Program Coordinator, Earthworks OGAP Wilma Subra Subra Company Calvin Tillman ShaleTest Stop the Frack Attack Summit Dallas, March 3, 2013

2 The big picture A changing world. Stressed water/air/land, existing health impacts of pollution. Closer to home. Oil & gas development reaching more places, more people; big cities & watersheds in play. Loopholes for polluters. Federal exemptions give industry a free pass; shift costs onto communities. Emerging knowledge. New studies on health, fluid migration, air and water pollution. Agencies reacting. EPA (new air rules, hydraulic fracturing study); DOE advisory panel recommendations; OSHA (worker silica exposure); CDC/ATSDR (taking a look).

3 A lack of testing and documentation means that contaminants released into the environment are not detected and community experiences not well known. Operators can maintain that pollution and health impacts do not exist, or that they’re not responsible. Regulators and officials are off the hook for holding operators accountable and taking steps to stop and prevent damage. Residents, policymakers, medical professionals, and advocates don’t have data to connect health impacts with oil and gas activities and get better protections. Timing mismatch The oil & gas rush is on—but impacts are not well understood or measures taken to prevent them in place

4 A high stakes gamble 2012 research in Pennsylvania: identify links between health problems and nearby gas wells, waste pits, and compressors. Data from 108 health symptom surveys and 34 air and water tests. Health symptoms closely matched (68%) the scientifically established effects of exposure to chemicals detected in the air and water. Members of households located closer than 1500 feet to gas facilities have higher rates of several symptoms (throat irritation, skin rashes, headaches, and nosebleeds) than those living further away.

5 Rx for Change Protect & improve public health 1. Identify sources of health impacts, routes of exposure. 2. Organize to address the sources of pollution. 3. Monitor pollutants in the environment. 4. Evaluate facility operating conditions and events. 5. Correlate reported health impacts with those associated with chemicals present in the environment. 6. Consider biomonitoring of exposed populations. 7. Document impacts that pollutants are having on public health. 8. Reduce exposure and interrupt routes of exposure to pollutants that cause problems. 9. Get the information out to a broad audience.

6 Educate vulnerable communities Identify how the cumulative impacts of different chemicals, pollutants, and stressors have numerous, severe, and widespread impacts on physical and mental health and quality of life. Provide health and scientific information to enable community members to understand the factors that impact their health and lives. Allow communities to integrate the knowledge into their specific situations and develop strategies to foster recovery. Allow communities to inform governmental agencies, elected officials, business owners, health care providers, and the general public about specific situations. Allow communities to take measures to reduce their exposure, improve human health and quality of life, reduce risk, recover, and become more resilient.

7 Help communities identify exposures, plot strategies to reduce them Document odor events, describe smells. Record health impacts experienced, length of time they last. List the number of individuals in the household that were impacted. Record lost work time due to the event. Track, record impacts on animals (pets and livestock). Identify the source of the odor event. Note date, time, duration, and location of the odor event. Get wind speed & direction from TV Weather Channel.

8 Benefits of odor & symptom logs If you don’t document and report odor events, they don’t exist Immediate, ongoing documentation of events and associated health impacts. A record of frequency of events. Supports possible correlation with chemical releases. Information to determine if/when/which health symptoms are experienced. Determines whether enough impacts are experienced to warrant health surveys. Information to use to notify local, state, and federal agencies. Records to report odors to the local Office of Emergency Response and (for large events) the National Response Center.

9 Correlating odor events with accidental releases Check with agencies: Office of Emergency Response, state regulators, and National Response Center about whether an accidental release was reported at the same time as the odor event. Determine and list the health impacts of chemicals that may have been released. Identify associations with the health impacts experienced by community members. Use the data from accidental releases to determine which chemicals to monitor in air and water. Build a case to request that governmental agencies provide ambient monitoring and/or include monitoring requirements in facility permit conditions.

10 Before activities start to serve as background/baseline. After activities are underway to identify direct impacts of industrial activity. If conditions change drastically, additional post-activity surveys. Ongoing odor & symptom logs to track both activities at facility sites and impacts on the community. Conducting health surveys

11 The Bayou Corne, Louisiana sink hole Event associated with the caving in of a salt dome cavern (August 2012-present) 84% of individuals reported odor events and associated health symptoms Headaches 68% Sore Throat 53% Nose Irritation 21% Burning, watery Eyes21% Fatigue 16% Mood Changes 11% Coughing 5% Nose Bleed 5% Skin Irritation 5% Sleep Disorder 5% Lightheadedness5% Behavioral Upset5%

12 Removal of crude oil and vegetative debris resulted in more frequent odor events. Odor and symptom logs were submitted on a daily basis. Before Removal During Removal Headaches63%82% Nose Irritation19%64% Burning and Watery Eyes19%55% The increase in health impacts associated with odor events corresponded with an increase in Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) detected in the air. Community outcomes: health and odors

13 From DISH, Texas to ShaleTest Drilling begins 2005, compressor stations & pipelines follow. Residents start complaining of health problems. Consultant hired to conduct air testing. Health surveys conducted (Subra Company and Earthworks); state officials test blood & urine of residents. Close association found between chemicals detected and symptoms reported. Led to stronger odor control and emission standards. ShaleTest founded 2010 to provide testing to lower income families and communities negatively impacted by natural gas development

14 For more information… Gas Patch Roulette report and supporting data (including a health survey and odor & symptom log): New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy (special edition on shale gas): ShaleTest: Louisiana Environmental Action Network:

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