UM fracking study identifies variety of health concerns

Daily Record Business Writer//August 18, 2014

UM fracking study identifies variety of health concerns

By Bryan P. Sears

//Daily Record Business Writer

//August 18, 2014

University of Maryland researchers released a report Monday identifying a number of health risks that could result if the state ultimately opens up Western Maryland to hydraulic fracturing.

The 203-page report identifies a number of health risks. Included are what researchers said they consider to be a high likelihood of negative impacts to air quality, the increased burden on the region’s health care system, occupational health risks and other “social determinants of health,” such as increases sexually transmitted disease, crime, and drug use.

The report also identifies a moderately high risk of water pollution and a lower risk of earthquakes as long as the state does not allow companies to dispose of waste water in deep injection wells.

“This report confirms that unconventional natural gas development has the potential to cause both short-term and long-term health impacts, some of which may be irreversible,” said Dr. Gina Angiola, a retired obstetrician, in a statement released by the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. ”Given the nature of the chemicals used in the fracking process, we may see increases in cancers, neurologic diseases, cardiac and respiratory diseases, and developmental disorders in coming years, but it will take time for these effects to show up.”

Researchers said they found concerns associated with process commonly called fracking but did not urge the Marcellus Shale Safe-Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission to reject the gas extraction process. Instead, the report identified and ranked eight areas of concern and made 52 recommendations. The researchers said adoption of the recommendations would mitigate those concerns should fracking be approved in the state.

Currently, there are no companies actively seeking permits to drill for gas in the shale deposits in Western Maryland. The commission is charged with producing best practices used in other states where hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits is done, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The 15-member commission, created by Gov. Martin J. O’Malley in 2011, is charged with looking at the issue of fracking in Garrett and Allegany Counties.

The panel will make final recommendations on the issue after taking into account the health study as well as other studies, including an assessment of the economic impact the controversial natural gas extraction process would have on the area.

Those reports, including the health impact study, will be released for public comment and potential revision before the panel combines the information into one report.

Members of the commission say they expect that recommendations from the commission will help create some of the strictest fracking regulations in the country.

The committee is already behind scheduled for releasing a final report. A draft report expected in December was released in the spring.

Currently, the commission is expecting to deliver a final report before the end of fall.


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