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Ohio Utica Shale

April 1 report: Swimming meet in fracking liquids

By Bob Downing Published: April 1, 2013

From the Equation blog from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Pennsylvania High School to Host Bizarre Swim Meet – in Fracking Fluid

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In what one concerned parent is calling “outrageous,” the Pennsylvania Department of Environment is allowing two eastern Pennsylvania high schools to stage a bizarre boys swim meet this coming Friday—in a swimming pool filled with fracking fluid.

The event is being held to demonstrate the safety of the fluid, a byproduct of the oil and gas extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. Some politicians have pulled similar scientifically questionable stunts to reassure the public that fracking fluid is benign. Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO), for example, went so far as to drink a glass of the fluid in 2012.

The swim meet is sponsored by the American Oil and Gas Council, whose member companies believe that fracking could bring 3,500 jobs to the Lehigh Valley alone.

Administrators at Allentown Senior High School and Jefferson High School in Easton are facing a backlash from angry parents who claim they were never notified that the idea was under consideration. “The fluids might be completely safe,” said Sharon Petaluma, a mother of one of the swimmers. “But I feel that we as a community have the right and responsibility to know more about what exactly is in them before we allow our children to swim around in it.”

allentown pool

If Allentown High School administrators get their way, this pool will soon be filled with fracking fluid.

Most local politicians have stayed silent on the issue. But last week, former Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told his neighbors in New York to “relax” about the potential environmental impacts of fracking (while initially failing to disclose $30,000 in payments from a private equity firm with investments in the oil and gas industry).

A spokesperson for the American Chemical Society expressed cautious reservations about the event. “There is no way this would ever pass muster with one of our review boards,” said society spokesperson Andrew Murphy.

This reminds me of a similar debacle from 2012, when the EPA and the city of Cleveland announced they were setting the Cuyahoga River on fire to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

Boys on the team were encouraged not to shower before entering the water, as researchers from Bausch & Lomb wanted to study the effects of the fluid on adolescent skin. “Initial tests have shown that some oil byproducts condition the hair and remove unwelcome odors,” said company spokesperson Christopher Stinton. “Who knows, we may discover the next Axe Body Spray—which will create jobs right here in Pennsylvania and help put our economy back on track.”

Meanwhile, many parents are livid. “These normally precautionary principals are completely disregarding the precautionary principle,” said Mary Thurst, a former Allentown school board member and parent of two.

“The issue is even causing divisiveness within my team,” complained boys coach Neal Hoffman. “My sprinters are taunting the distance swimmers because they’ll be in the water so much more.”

One administrator suggested that the schools could first stage a game between the schools’ water polo teams to see what happened before exposing the more delicate swimmers to the liquid, a suggestion that was quickly rebuffed.

“Those kids are beasts,” complained sophomore swimmer Jonathan Levi. “What is science going to tell us about them that we don’t already know?”

But the American Oil and Gas Council is undeterred, saying it may stage similar events around the country. “We’re looking at bottling the air around drilling sites and pumping it into hospitals and senior citizen centers,” said council spokesperson Spike O’Dell.

School administrators said they originally suggested following the lead of the State Department and solicit public comments on this controversial issue and then refuse to make the public comments public. But after several parents threatened to sue the two high schools, they decided to hold a community meeting tonight, April 1st, at 7:00 p.m. to attempt to address parents’ concerns.

You’d be a fool if you think that meeting is going to go well.

That's what the blog says. Remember what day it is today and what some people do on that day.



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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.