Toxins tied to fish kill may have hitchhiked: Investigators weigh whether mining equipment is culprit

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Oct 4):
Toxins tied to fish kill may have hitchhiked: Investigators weigh whether mining equipment is culprit

A highly speculative and irresponsible article trying to tie an algae buildup along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border to drilling for natural gas. I would go as far as saying it’s pure fantasy. But that’s what passes for “news” these days. Part of the article ties in completely unrelated news, like the Cabot problems in Northeast PA, with this one–a favorite tactic of people who don’t have a case.

  • Iris

    I read the article and it seemed responsible to me. People are understandably asking rather urgently why 10,000 fish are dead; why an entire creek with a rich aquatic ecosystem is destroyed. The journalist was clear about the complexity of the chemical / biological chain of events, and also clear about what was speculation and what was fact, which is responsible journalism.

    The public has a right to know that there are problems with drilling in the Marcellus Shale, and that many of the problems relate to water, whether that’s methane leaks into drinking water systems, or fish kills, or pollution in the Monongahela.

    Water is precious to all of us, so it makes sense that breaking developments should be reported even when all the answers aren’t conclusive.

    Dunkard Creek deserves attention, and it is natural that investigators advance theories as part of their attempt to understand what happened and why.

    Life matters; water is essential to life; water matters. This is our common interest.

  • Jim

    Thanks for your comment Iris. I don’t believe anyone would argue that water is important to everyone, and I certainly don’t want my water supply (nor anyone’s) to become poluted–on that we can agree. My point is that the article stretches the connection too far, without enough hard evidence. And is one of many in an ongoing campaign to discredit drilling. If drilling is at fault–show the evidence. I guess our disagreement is over evidence and whether or not it exists in this case.

    Thanks for commenting, and please continue to read and comment.

  • Iris

    Thanks Jim and other readers. I’ve read a great many more documents about the Dunkard fish kill at this point, and also know that many lab reports from the fish bodies are not in yet. Investigators from several agencies continue to look at a complex set of data involving potential mine discharge, a definite presence of toxic yellow algae without its being obvious why the algae bloomed; and presence of high salt and high TDS which is consistent with Marcellus Shale wastewater. The agencies haven’t been able to draw firm conclusions yet. In the meantime, it’s unwise to say that necessary scientific process of submitting hypotheses to evidence-based tests is a “campaign” against drilling. The reporter who wrote this story is continuing to cover the ongoing investigation closely with as much accuracy and complexity as possible, as far as I can see. In fact, I would say that everybody is being very careful NOT to say irresponsible things, such as, “obviously some trucker could dump fracing wastewater in the old mine and not realize there is an underground flow to the active mine and from there to the creek…” …now THAT would be speculation! Since people are being so careful, so concerned and so scientific, I would hardly consider that a “campaign to discredit drilling.” I hope we all stay vigilant and stay connected to our sense of care that no such disasters be repeated for any reason, from any source.

  • Jim

    Thanks for the update Iris. Feel free (at any time) to submit more information as it becomes available. I am interested in the truth of this matter–no matter where it leads! Only when we know for sure can we do something to prevent further damage. I appreciate your willingness to jump in and comment. Also, feel free to send me a “guest post” if you want to get new/more information out about this issue.

    Kind regards,

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