I recently urged you to watch GasLand, HBO’s outstanding documentary on “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing)—a dangerous drilling procedure that allows natural gas to infiltrate our water supply and create pools of toxic wastewater.

Since my June 28 blog post, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has quarantined 28 cows from a Tioga County farm, as they were exposed to a large pool of drilling wastewater from a nearby natural gas operation.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding says he doesn’t know how much wastewater the cows consumed, and he announced the quarantine to prevent potentially contaminated beef from entering the food supply.

“Cattle are drawn to the taste of salty water,” he says. “Drilling wastewater has high salinity levels, but it also contains dangerous chemicals and metals. We took this precaution in order to protect the public from consuming any of this potentially contaminated product should it be marketed for human consumption.”

The cows were out to pasture when a wastewater holding pond leaked, sending contaminated water into the adjacent field. The resulting toxic pool killed a 30’ x 40’ patch of grass.

While no cows were seen drinking the wastewater, their tracks were evident throughout the pool, which had extended 200 to 300 feet into their pasture. Tests found the wastewater contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium.

Redding says he’s most concerned about the strontium, which can be toxic to humans (especially children).

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to the drilling company, East Resources Inc., and required further sampling and site remediation. This simply isn’t good enough. The site should be shut down before it causes even greater harm, and fracking should be outlawed altogether.

Photo: Shaleshock