News

    Gas Drilling Plan Raises Water Contamination Fears in New York City

    Environmentalists claim the drilling could contaminate New York's unfiltered drinking water sources with dangerous chemicals and radioactivity

    Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer speaking at an anti-gas-drilling rally in New York
    Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer speaking at an anti-gas-drilling rally in New York

    Multimedia

    Audio

    New York City leaders and environmentalists from around the state are fighting a plan to permit a new method of drilling for natural gas in the city's upstate watershed. They say the process, called horizontal hydraulic fracturing or hydro fracking, would contaminate New York's unfiltered drinking water sources with dangerous chemicals and radioactivity.

    Drilling supporters reply that drilling can be done safely and that depressed rural areas need the money that gas drilling brings – and that the U.S.  needs the energy. The debate is a flashpoint in a modern gas rush sweeping New York and Pennsylvania that could transform formerly rural areas.

    "We must kill this drill. Kill the drill!” Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer told supporters at a rally against New York State’s draft plan to permit horizontal hydro fracking of gas wells. The method blasts millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth, first vertically, and then horizontally,to crack open an ancient gas-containing rock formation called the Marcellus Shale. 

    Most of southern New York and all of neighboring Pennsylvania lies above Marcellus rock, including the pristine Catskill Mountains, which supply New York City’s nine million residents with gravity-fed drinking water so pure that it isn’t even filtered.  Further south, the Delaware River Basin is the source of drinking water for millions more in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

    Drilling opponents, who ranged from politicians to upstate environmentalists and landowners, vastly outnumbered supporters like Delaware River outfitter David Jones. Jones noted that gas burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels. "This is a good clean resource. It must be developed,” he said. “Let’s keep the dollars here in the U.S., reduce our dependence on foreign oil, keep our soils and water clean, and provide needed tax revenue and jobs.”

    “We understand the environmental concerns, but that being said, we know without a doubt we can drill safely in any watershed,” said another defender, Scott Rotruck, vice-president of the Texas-based Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the largest company poised to expand gas drilling in New York State.

    Nevertheless, Rotruck confirmed that following the public outcry, Chesapeake has decided not to seek to drill within New York City watershed. Other gas companies have made no such promise.  And Cathy Kenney of the New York State Petroleum Council, which represents the oil and gas industry, says that no ban within the watershed is needed. She disputes claims by some landowners in other states that their water wells were contaminated by toxic chemicals and migrating natural gas that caused explosions and tap water that can be ignited with a match. 

    "It could be coincidental. As of now, all of these state authorities are investigating this, as they should,” Kenney said in an interview. “But up till now there is no causal link between the hydro fracking that's going on and some of these claims."

    A gas well rig in the Pennsylvania countryside
    A gas well rig in the Pennsylvania countryside

    However, Pennsylvania recently fined the Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation for drilling that contaminated the drinking water of at least 13 families, and for illegal discharges of toxic waste. Studies of gas drilling in western states have found similar problems, as well as air pollution with benzene, toluene, hexane and other carcinogens.

    In New York State, where the bedrock is highly radioactive, scientists say hydro fracking will also return to the surface dangerously radioactive wastewater. Opponents like physician Vincent Pedre say a complete ban is necessary to protect human health.

    "This stuff is toxic in our water supply,” he said. “It's toxic in the water supply for upstate New York. It should be banned throughout the entire state."

    Alex Matthiessen is president of Riverkeeper, a private organization that works to protect fresh water sources. He notes that hydro fracking uses enormous quantities of fresh water – two to ten million gallons each time a gas-well is fracked – and says that local aquifers and lakes could be depleted.

    "It seems unsustainable to think that we've got enough water to lubricate this process in a way that's not going to cause serious water deprivation for some of those communities,” he said. But he said Riverkeeper’s primary concern is contaminated wastewater created by hydro fracking: “How do you dispose of it, who oversees it, who oversees these contractors who are going to be trying to save a buck? This process will require more enforcement than any we’ve ever seen in New York State,” he said.

    New York State currently has only 17 gas-well inspectors to monitor gas drilling, however. If state officials go ahead with hydro fracking permits next year, more than 40,000 new wells could be drilled in southern New York alone in the next few years.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugeesi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    May 06, 2016 9:24 PM
    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video British Government to Resettle Unaccompanied Child Refugees

    After criticism from lawmakers across the political spectrum, the British government has signaled that it will accept thousands of unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have fled to Europe. It follows a campaign by a group of former Jewish refugees who were given refuge in Britain from Nazi persecution in the 1930s. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Strangers Share Secrets Through Postcards

    Frank Warren owns a million secrets. Strangers from around the world send him postcards with their confessions, their disappointments, and their hopes for the future, all anonymously. He displays his favorites online and in exhibits, and shares them with audiences in sold-out appearances around the globe. As VOA's Julie Taboh reports, what started as a simple social experiment has evolved into a multi-faceted and hugely successful global phenomenon.
    Video

    Video Largest Ground-based Telescope Under Construction

    While NASA's engineers are nearing the final phase of assembling the new James Webb space telescope, scheduled to be deployed in 2018, an international consortium led by the U.S. is laying foundations and building parts for a ground-based telescope, much larger than any other. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora