|Issue #98 - November 2010|
Welcome to this Special issue of Naturopathic News, issue #98. In the midst of talking to a patient last week I decided that I would make November’s Naturopathic News all about the Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling. When I mentioned my idea to Phylleri she asked me, “What does that have to do with your work?” Good question. What seems so obvious to me may not be so obvious to you. I hope that by sharing our experience with this health issue it might be useful for you. Each issue of Naturopathic News starts out with the sentence “It's my mission to help you find optimal solutions to health problems.” Drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale dramatically affects air quality, water quality, and produces significant noise pollution, dangerous truck traffic, etc. Your health is impacted by all of this environmental destruction. I also feel that Marcellus drilling disrupts our societal and economic health as a community.
When we first moved our family to Steam Valley in March of 1998 it seemed that everyone that met us over the next year eventually asked the same question, “Why did you move from Colorado to north central Pennsylvania?” Our answer was simple. We did it for ourselves, our children, and the animals we care for. We found a 14 acre piece of land with pure water, plentiful plants, and clean air. Here was a place where our kids could play safely, exploring the acres and acres of hunt club and neighbor land. Where we could experience the beauty of forests and valley, the moon and stars of the night sky, and pursue organic gardening, and sustainable animal husbandry.
Our Lease Story
With such goals in moving here, how did we end up signing a gas lease? In the Spring of 2006 a landman knocked on our door. John was a young, personable fellow who told us how our neighbors were signing gas leases and that we should too. We were against it due to concerns about land, water, and air quality. He proceeded to tell us about subsurface leases, which supposedly wouldn’t destroy our land. John said that water would be protected and not contaminated. We were skeptical. Finally, he promoted the idea that, if we didn’t sign a lease, it would all happen anyway. If there was gas under our land it could be extracted from someone else’s well. And we wouldn’t be compensated. In other words, if we didn’t sign a lease we would have all of the potential damage with none of the benefit. He also let us in on the idea that there probably wouldn’t be drilling in the next 5 years anyway so we could just terminate the lease in 2011, none the worse for wear. Without consulting a lawyer, thinking we had a handle on all the risk, we signed the lease.
Except, it turns out, it’s really not a lease. At least not in the way that you or I think of a lease—as a limited time rental contract. When you sign a standard gas lease, it’s really a sale. You’re selling your rights. And the language is actually such that you’ve sold those rights in such a way that the ‘lease’ will automatically renew if certain prerequisites are met. And those prerequisites are almost always manipulated (without you knowing it) in such a way that the ‘lease’ is automatically renewed. It’s very difficult to change a lease or get out of a lease even if what the landman told you was a blatant lie and the agreement you signed wasn’t what you thought it was.
The Marcellus Shale is a natural gas reserve which runs through parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. This whole region is currently experiencing a huge boom in exploration and extraction. Drilling technologies, like hydraulic fracturing have made this deposit, which once was too expensive to extract, economically accessible.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is termed, is a common technique used to trigger the production of natural gas. Fluids are injected underground under high pressures, and the gas is moved more easily out of the formation. Fracking fluids use 2 million gallons of water, which can be transported by 1000s of water and waste haulers. Up to 70% of fracking fluids remain in the ground and are not biodegradable. These fluids are a combination of water and toxic chemicals like methane, toluene, benzene, and others. Over 80,000 pounds of chemicals are injected into the earth to frack each well. These toxics have contaminated water supplies in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.
From any given well pad that is set on a piece of property 8-10 horizontal wells can be drilled. Each well will undergo fracking. According to Thomas Murphy, co-director of the Penn State Marcellus Center of Outreach and Research, about 2 dozen wells have had problems, mostly the migration of methane into the watershed. Methane is a flammable gas responsible for tap water that can be lit on fire (see the movie Gasland http://gaslandthemovie.com/ ).
Estimates put the number of wells to be drilled in PA at 40,000 to 400,000. The same rate of problem wells we’ve seen up to now would give us 266 to 2660 wells with problems. Recently in Dimock, problems with the cement casing on 20 natural gas wells drilled by Cabot Oil & Gas have been blamed for methane contamination of local water wells. Levels of methane in some Dimock water wells are so high that homeowners are able to set water aflame as it came out of their taps. Though it will not admit that fracking is behind the water problems in Dimock, Cabot is going to pay $12 million to pipe municipal water from the nearby town of Montrose down to Dimock, and the company has already been paying to provide expensive water filtering systems to many residents there.
The Pennsylvania State Police and the Department of Environmental Protection announced that during an October three-day joint safety enforcement operation, three out of every four drilling wastewater hauling trucks stopped were cited for safety violations. Out of 1,175 trucks inspected, 207 were so dangerous they were immediately placed out of service, and 52 drivers were driving illegally. Here in Lycoming County, the record was even worse than the state-wide figures. Of the 340 vehicles inspected, 85% (289) were issued citations and 55 (nearly 1 in 5) were immediately taken off the road. These are the same water trucks that you see every day on highway 15. The same ones that your child’s school bus may be following on township roads.
A Scripps Howard News Service investigation reports that Pennsylvania has issued 8,309 violation notices to gas drilling companies since 2007. However, Department of Environmental Protection officials cautioned investigators that their files include thousands of violations that have no date of being fixed and cannot be trusted as accurate. Instead of keeping the books up-to-date, inspectors are devoting their limited manpower in the field rather than completing paperwork.
If there is any chance that a well may be drilled where you live I highly recommend that you have your water tested before a well is drilled. This would help you establish a baseline of water quality that you could use to make a case if water contamination occurs later. Most water testing companies have test packages specific for gas drilling that include common individual tests. Make sure that you include, at the minimum, methane, benzene, and toluene. Though the latter two have not gotten much press and aren’t commonly tested for we do know the cancer causing effects of benzene and toluene. And they could be part of a water contamination.
As a licensed naturopath I have serious concerns about the noise, air, land, and water pollution that is caused by drilling in the Marcellus Shale. In particular, the release of these chemicals into our environment and how they then act as endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system is a complex network of glands and hormones that regulates many of the body's functions; including growth, development and maturation, as well as the way various organs operate. The endocrine glands -- including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, thymus, pancreas, ovaries, and testes -- release specific amounts of hormones into the bloodstream that act as natural chemical messengers, traveling to different parts of the body in order to control and adjust many life functions.
An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical that when absorbed into the body either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body's normal functions. This disruption can happen through altering normal hormone levels, halting or stimulating the production of hormones, or changing the way hormones travel through the body, thus affecting the functions that these hormones control. Because endocrine disruptors affect the development of the body's vital organs and hormonal systems, infants, children and developing fetuses are more vulnerable to exposure. Not only is drilling affecting us now, the potential exists to damage future generations.
How did such a toxic extraction process as hydraulic fracking become the standard without being stopped by the Clean Water Act? The Halliburton Loophole expressly exempts oil and gas companies, from customary safety measures, health safeguards, regulatory oversights, penalties and liabilities that most Americans assume are in place to protect citizens, health and resources. In 2005, at the urging of Vice President Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, Congress created the so-called "Halliburton loophole" to clean water protections in federal law. This loophole prevents the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating this process, despite serious concerns about the chemicals used in the process and its demonstrated spoiling and contamination of drinking water. In 2001, Cheney's "secret energy task force" had touted the benefits of hydrofracking, while covering up references to human health hazards associated with hydrofracking. Halliburton reportedly earns $1.5 billion a year from its energy operations, which rely substantially on its hydrofracking business.
What You Can Do
Last week I went to a townhall meeting in Trout Run with Garth Everett, Republican state representative for the 84th legislative district. To me it seemed his main message was ‘gas drilling is happening, deal with it’. Somewhere from 60-100 people were there voicing almost unanimous opposition to gas drilling and its effects. Representative Everett says he wants us to keep giving him our opinion, that he represents us. The only way to ensure that is to make sure he hears us. Be there for the next meeting.
THE FRAC ACT
Support on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/FRAC-Act/
Support the Frac Act or "Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009". This bill, introduced into the US House of Representatives and the Senate (by Bob Casey (D) PA), would amend the Safe Water Drinking Act to repeal the Halliburton loophole. Once again the EPA would be monitoring and regulating the chemicals in frack fluids. Ask your federal (and local) representatives if they support repeal of the Exemption.
RESPONSIBLE DRILLING ALLIANCE http://responsibledrillingalliance.org/
The RDA is a grassroots, all-volunteer group of dedicated citizens who have formed an alliance and welcome members with the widest possible concerns, interests and ideologies. RDA membership includes parents and grandparents, students, business people, hunters, fishermen, farmers, hikers, teachers, truckers, those who have leased their land to a gas company, and those who refused.
RDA is an education and advocacy coalition. They seek to educate themselves and the public about deep shale gas drilling and all of its ramifications. Through outreach programs, events, public forums, and their weekly e-letter, they strive to balance the conversation with authenticity. RDA advocates for federal, state and local regulations needed to protect our economy, environment, health, safety and quality of life.
Join RDA to receive email updates and add your voice to ours.
Here are some pages that are of particular interest:
Store : There are 312 products from Emerson listed on this page. If yours isn’t one of them please let me know and I will add it so you can order online. This is particularly convenient after hours or on the weekend. Of course, you can always order by phone from Emerson at 800-654-4432.
Newsletter : Here you will find all 97 issues of my health newsletter, "Naturopathic News”.
Optimal Health Points : This is my blog that I update periodically. Check out my latest post, “No Deaths From Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids Or Herbs”.
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LET ME HELP YOU MAKE WISE SUPPLEMENT CHOICES
As is often the case, a recent new patient asked if I would review their choice and use of supplements and herbs. Why does this happen so often? For many, taking a vitamin or herb is their introduction to natural medicine. Their desire to be healthier drives them to take supplements and herbs. The death, pain, discomfort, and side effects experienced with over the counter and prescription drugs compels people to look elsewhere. It’s very different with supplements and herbs which, when used correctly, have an incredibly low risk of harm.
Some people take this to an extreme and take every supplement or herb that someone tells them is ‘good for them’. It might be a clerk, an internet ‘expert’ source, or a friend who is marketing the latest or greatest fad. Most of these individuals or companies have no professional training or experience in the medical use of the supplements or herbs that they’re selling. The people they’re selling to come into my office with 5,10, 15, or more supplements that they’re taking. Sometimes it’s been so long since they started taking them that they don’t remember why they’re doing it. When I ask, they can’t tell me what, if anything, a particular product is doing for them. Yet, they can be quite fearful of stopping any of these items, as if their health would careen off a precipice without them.
Why do I think my approach is any different? Partly, it’s because of my background. I’ve literally been working with nutritional supplements since 1974. That’s 36 years assessing the quality and effectiveness of supplements. Beginning in 1980 I started working with Western and Chinese herbs. The quality of herbs used and how they’re combined together has the greatest effect on the efficacy of the final product. Because I’ve grown, identified, harvested, and produced medicinal herbal products I recognize a good formula when I see one.
Licensed naturopaths like me receive the most extensive academic and clinical training in the use of nutritional supplements and herbal medicines of any professional in the United States. Nothing can substitute for such hands on experience, especially when you see, and are responsible for, the results of your treatments. Very different from the clerk in the store, or coworker who’s part of a MLM scheme.
What I’m offering to is easy access to this experience and training. Both for you and your family. If you have questions about the supplements or herbs you are taking, or are thinking about taking, now is the time to ask. Send me an email with the brand and name of the product you’re taking. Let me know that you want to bring the bottles in at your next visit, so I can see what you’re taking. Start a discussion on my Facebook fan page. Either way I’ll give you honest feedback about what I think is good, or what isn’t. We’ll fine tune what you’re taking to maximize effect and eliminate waste.
Let me hear from you and we’ll get started.
GET YOUR VITAMIN D TEST WITH ZRT LABORATORY
It just happened again the other day. A patient sent me a copy of the Vitamin D test she just had done. With frustrating results. The wrong test was done. After all these years, and all the information available, MDs and laboratories still order the wrong test. What a waste of money and time.
For a long time I looked for a home Vitamin D test. One that would be simple, easy, and accurate to do on your own. I finally found one. ZRT Laboratory in Beaverton OR. ZRT emphasizes research and technological innovation.
Until now, venipuncture blood serum has been the standard medium for testing Vitamin D. ZRT has developed and refined Vitamin D testing in blood spots. A few drops of blood from a quick and nearly painless nick of the finger, placed on a filter paper to dry are all that is needed. The total 25 (OH) Vitamin D is then determined by liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). This method has been shown to be as accurate as the assay standard.
Ordering A Vitamin D Test
ZRT allows anyone to order a Vitamin D test kit for $95 plus shipping and have it sent to their home. ZRT will let me prepay for kits and send them to my office for $55 each. I am charging $65 per kit for patients to cover my overhead and analysis of results.
If you are interested in getting a Vitamin D test done through my office please prepay so I can order you a kit. Then you can either pick it up at my office or have it shipped to your home. Once you’ve taken the sample and sent it back to ZRT it’s only a matter of time before your results are sent back to me. I can even look at them online before the mail arrives.
If your doctor has refused to order a Vitamin D test or worse, ordered the wrong one, this is the fastest, least expensive, most accurate way to do it ourselves. Once we know what your Vitamin D levels are, the next step is making sure that you achieve optimum levels for prevention of disease and maintenance of health.
I am often asked what supplements I recommend. Many of you have been surprised to discover that I favor food over pills; lifestyle changes over fads. I have been working with nutrition for over 30 years, herbs for over 20 years. Where and when appropriate I recommend them to my patients. I strive to act from knowledge, experience, and research.
Emerson Ecologics (800-654-4432) carries almost all of the nutritional supplements and botanical extracts that I think are useful. Their customer service is excellent and their delivery is reliable (often only 2-3 days to this region). It’s a great way to get physician quality products at reasonable prices.
To offset the cost of shipping, reference my name when you establish your account and receive a 10% discount on every order. If you have any questions about these items feel free to email me.
That’s it for this issue of Naturopathic News. If you’ve thought a bit extra or learned something new, then I achieved my goal. As usual, if you have questions or concerns brought up by these subjects, let me know.
Gregory Pais, ND, DHANP
580 E. 3rd. St.
Williamsport PA 17701