Monday, August 18, 2014

Is Fracking Contaminating U.S. Livestock? / Study suggests hydrofracking is killing farm animals, pets / Livestock falling ill in fracking regions / 16 Cattle Drop Dead Near Mysterious Fluid at Gas Drilling Site

Jim Hudelson/The (Shreveport) Times

Is Fracking Contaminating U.S. Livestock?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Like canaries sent into coal mines to warn of breathing hazards, livestock in areas where hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is occurring are getting sick and dropping dead in alarming numbers,
 according to the only peer-reviewed scientific study of the impact of fracking on animals.
And if cattle are getting sick because of fracking, what about the health of people who later drink their milk or eat their flesh?
The study, authored by Prof. Robert Oswald of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and practicing veterinarian Michele Bamberger, compiles case studies of 24 farmers in 6 states whose livestock experienced neurological, reproductive and acute gastrointestinal problems after exposure to fracking chemicals in the water or air.
The case studies include 17 Louisiana cows that died of respiratory failure after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid; 70 Pennsylvania cows that died after 140 of them were exposed to fracking wastewater from an impoundment breach; and a Pennsylvania herd whose pregnant cows had a 50% rate of stillborn calves after grazing in a pasture contaminated by fracking chemicals from an overflowing waste pit.
Fracking a single well requires up to 7 million gallons of water, as well as an additional 400,000 gallons of additives. A 2011 study compiled a list of 632 chemicals used in natural-gas production and determined that 75% could affect the skin, eyes, other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems; 40-50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.
Cattle that die on the farm aren’t supposed to get into the nation’s food system, but herd mates that look healthy, despite being exposed to the same toxins, do. “They’re making their way into the food system, and it’s very worrisome to us,” Bamberger explains. “They live in areas that have tested positive for air, water and soil contamination. Some of these chemicals could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals.”
Although there have been few cattle deaths so far, some institutions that specialize in risk management have begun to see the pattern and take action. For example, Nationwide Mutual Insurance, which sells agricultural insurance, has announced that it will not cover damages related to fracking, and Rabobank, the world’s largest agricultural bank, is said to no longer sell mortgages to farmers with gas leases. Some farmers whose land sits atop the Marcellus shale are migrating to land outside that fracking zone, causing shifts in land prices.
If insurance companies won’t insure losses from fracking, and farmers and ranchers don’t want to raise food in fracking zones, should consumers beware of eating it?
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
Fracking Our Food Supply (by Elizabeth Royte, Food and Environment Reporting Network)
Impacts of Gas Drilling on Animal and Human Health (by Michele Bamberger and Robert Oswald, New Solutions) (pdf)

March 7, 2012

Study suggests hydrofracking is killing farm animals, pets

A new report has found dozens of cases of illness, death and reproductive issues in cows, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, fish and other wildlife, and humans. It says these conditions could be the result of exposure to gas drilling operations.

Hydraulic fracturing, popularly called hydrofracking, is a process for extracting natural gas from shale using chemicals and water.

The paper's authors, Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, and veterinarian Michelle Bamberger, DVM '85, interviewed animal owners in six states -- Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas -- and cited 24 cases where animals were potentially affected by gas drilling.

According to the study, recently published online and appearing soon in print, in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, making a direct link between death and illness is not possible due to incomplete testing, proprietary secrecy from gas drilling companies regarding the chemicals used in hydrofracking, and non-disclosure agreements that seal testimony and evidence when lawsuits are settled.

"We have a number of case studies -- they don't tell us about the prevalence of problems associated with hydraulic fracturing, but they do tell us how things can happen," said Oswald.
Some of the case studies include:
  • In Louisiana, 17 cows died within an hour of direct exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid. A necropsy report listed respiratory failure with circulatory collapse as the most likely cause of death.
  • A farmer separated his herd of cows into two groups: 60 were in a pasture with a creek where hydrofracking wastewater was allegedly dumped; 36 were in separate fields without creek access. Of the 60 cows exposed to the creek water, 21 died and 16 failed to produce calves the following spring. None of the 36 cows in separated fields had health problems, though one cow failed to breed in the spring.
  • Another farmer reported that 140 of his cows were exposed to hydrofracking fluid when wastewater impoundment was allegedly slit, and the fluid drained into a pasture and a pond. "These farmers saw workers slitting the liner to decrease the amount of liquid in the impoundment in order to refill it," said Bamberger. "We have heard it now on several occasions." Of the 140 cows, about 70 died, and there were high incidences of stillborn and stunted calves.
The authors note that the "most striking finding" of their study was how difficult it was to get solid information on the link between hydrofracking and health effects.
To provide better assessments of health impacts, the researchers recommend:
  • prohibiting nondisclosure agreements when public health is at stake;
  • increasing food safety testing and research, as the study documented that animals exposed to chemicals were not tested prior to slaughter, and little is known about the effects of hydrofracking chemicals on meat and dairy products;
  • improving the monitoring of routes of exposure, including in water, soil and air; and, most importantly,
  • fully testing the air, water, soil and animals prior to drilling and at regular intervals after drilling is completed, and disclosing fully the chemicals used when hydrofracking.
"Without knowledge of all the chemicals being used, you can't test before drilling," said Bamberger. "And if we don't have predrilling tests then if you find a chemical postdrilling, how can you prove that" it came from hydrofracking, she added.

Livestock falling ill in fracking regions

By Investigations
Thursday Nov 29, 2012 1:08 PM
Jacki Schilke:  This cow on Jacki Schilke's ranch in northeast North Dakota lost most of its tail, one of many ailments that afflicted her cattle after hydrofracturing, or fracking, began in the nearby Bakken Shale.

By Elizabeth Royte, Food & Environment Reporting Network
In the midst of the domestic energy boom, livestock on farms near oil- and gas-drilling operations nationwide have been quietly falling sick and dying. While scientists have yet to isolate cause and effect, many suspect chemicals used in drilling and hydrofracking (or “fracking”) operations are poisoning animals through the air, water or soil.
Earlier this year, Michelle Bamberger, an Ithaca, N.Y., veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, published the first and only peer-reviewed report to suggest a link between fracking and illness in food animals.
The authors compiled 24 case studies of farmers in six shale-gas states whose livestock experienced neurological, reproductive and acute gastrointestinal problems after being exposed — either accidentally or incidentally — to fracking chemicals in the water or air.
The article, published in “New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health,” describes how scores of animals died over the course of several years. Fracking industry proponents challenged the study, since the authors neither identified the farmers nor ran controlled experiments to determine how specific fracking compounds might affect livestock.

The death toll is insignificant when measured against the nation’s livestock population (some 97 million beef cattle go to market each year), but environmental advocates believe these animals constitute an early warning.

Exposed livestock “are making their way into the food system, and it’s very worrisome to us,” Bamberger said. “They live in areas that have tested positive for air, water and soil contamination. Some of these chemicals could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals.”

In Louisiana, 17 cows died after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid, which is injected miles underground to crack open and release pockets of natural gas. The most likely cause of death: respiratory failure.

In New Mexico, hair testing of sick cattle that grazed near well pads found petroleum residues in 54 of 56 animals.

In northern central Pennsylvania, 140 cattle were exposed to fracking wastewater when an impoundment was breached. Approximately 70 cows died, and the remainder produced only 11 calves, of which three survived.

In western Pennsylvania, an overflowing wastewater pit sent fracking chemicals into a pond and a pasture where pregnant cows grazed: Half their calves were born dead. Dairy operators in shale-gas areas of Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Texas have also reported the death of goats exposed to fracking chemicals.

Drilling and fracking a single well requires up to 7 million gallons of water, plus an additional 400,000 gallons of additives, including lubricants, biocides, scale- and rust-inhibitors, solvents, foaming and defoaming agents, emulsifiers and de-emulsifiers, stabilizers and breakers. At almost every stage of developing and operating an oil or gas well, chemicals and compounds can be introduced into the environment.

Cows lose weight, dieAfter drilling began just over the property line of Jacki Schilke’s ranch in the northwestern corner of North Dakota in 2009, in the heart of the state’s booming Bakken Shale, cattle began limping, with swollen legs and infections. Cows quit producing milk for their calves, they lost from 60 to 80 pounds in a week and their tails mysteriously dropped off. Eventually, five animals died, according to Schilke.

Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene -- and well testing revealed high levels of sulfates, chromium, chloride and strontium. Schilke says she moved her herd upwind and upstream from the nearest drill pad.

Although her steers currently look healthy, she said, “I won’t sell them because I don’t know if they’re OK.”

Nor does anyone else. Energy companies are exempt from key provisions of environmental laws, which makes it difficult for scientists and citizens to learn precisely what is in drilling and fracking fluids or airborne emissions. And without information on the interactions between these chemicals and pre-existing environmental chemicals, veterinarians can’t hope to pinpoint an animal’s cause of death.

The risks to food safety may be even more difficult to parse, since different plants and animals take up different chemicals through different pathways.

“There are a variety of organic compounds, metals and radioactive material (released in the fracking process) that are of human health concern when livestock meat or milk is ingested,” said Motoko Mukai, a veterinary toxicologist at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. These “compounds accumulate in the fat and are excreted into milk. Some compounds are persistent and do not get metabolized easily.”

Jacki Schilke
An oil-drilling rig is visible from Jacki Schilke's ranch in North Dakota.

Veterinarians don’t know how long chemicals may remain in animals, farmers aren’t required to prove their livestock are free of contamination before middlemen purchase them and the Food Safety Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t looking for these compounds in carcasses at slaughterhouses.

Documenting the scope of the problem is difficult: Scientists lack funding to study the matter, and rural vets remain silent for fear of retaliation. Farmers who receive royalty checks from energy companies are reluctant to complain, and those who have settled with gas companies following a spill or other accident are forbidden to disclose information to investigators. Some food producers would rather not know what’s going on, say ranchers and veterinarians.

Fracking proponents criticize Bamberger and Oswald’s paper as a political, not a scientific, document.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the main lobbying group for ranchers, takes no position on fracking, but some ranchers are beginning to speak out. “These are industry-supporting conservatives, not radicals,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council. “They are the experts in their animals’ health, and they are very concerned.”

Last March, Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called for studies of oil and gas production’s impact on food plants and animals. None is currently planned by the federal government.

As local food booms, consumers waryBut consumers intensely interested in where and how their food is grown aren’t waiting for hard data to tell them their meat or milk is safe. For them, the perception of pollution is just as bad as the real thing.

“My beef sells itself. My farm is pristine. But a restaurant doesn’t want to visit and see a drill pad on the horizon,” said Ken Jaffe, who raises grass-fed cattle in upstate New York.

Only recently has the local foods movement, in regions across the country, reached a critical mass. But the movement’s lofty ideals could turn out to be, in shale gas areas, a double-edged sword.

Should the moratorium on hydrofracking in New York State be lifted, the 16,200-member Park Slope Food Co-op, in Brooklyn, will no longer buy food from farms anywhere near drilling operations -- a $4 million loss for upstate producers. The livelihood of organic goat farmer Steven Cleghorn, who’s surrounded by active wells in Pennsylvania, is already in jeopardy.

“People at the farmers market are starting to ask exactly where this food comes from,” he said.

This report was produced by the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent investigative journalism non-profit focusing on food, agriculture, and environmental health. A longer version of this story appears on

Jim Hudelson/The (Shreveport) Times

16 Cattle Drop Dead Near Mysterious Fluid at Gas Drilling Site

by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, April 30, 2009, 3 p.m.

ProPublica has been reporting for months about how natural gas drilling is affecting the environment, but of all the causes for concern we've reported, here's a doozy.
Sixteen cattle dropped dead in a northwestern Louisiana field this week after apparently drinking from a mysterious fluid adjacent to a natural gas drilling rig, according to Louisiana's Department of Environmental Quality and a report in the Shreveport Times.

At least one worker told the newspaper that the fluids, which witnesses described as green and spewing into the air near the drilling derrick, were used for a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing.

But the company, Chesapeake Energy, has not identified exactly what chemicals are in those fluids and is insisting to state regulators that no spill occurred.

The problem is that both Chesapeake and its contractor doing the work Schlumberger, say that a lot of these fluids are proprietary, said Otis Randle, regional manager for the DEQ. "It can be an obstacle, but we try to be fair to everybody," he said. "We try to remember that the products they use are theirs and they need them to make a living."

Hydraulic fracturing -- a process in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep underground at high pressure to break rock and release natural gas -- is controversial because of the secrecy surrounding the fluids and because the process is exempted from protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act and thus from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. Congress is currently considering legislation to address these issues out of concern that fracturing, and the fluids and waste that are part of the process, may be contaminating drinking water in several states.

Hydraulic fracturing has made drilling more efficient and economical and has helped make vast new reserves of natural gas available across the country, including in New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado and Louisiana.

Scientists at the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have told ProPublica that it's difficult for them to assess the environmental risks posed by hydraulic fracturing chemicals because the companies that use them won't release the exact names and amounts of the chemicals. The energy service companies, including Halliburton and Schlumberger, say that disclosing that information would put them at a competitive disadvantage, and they insist the fluids are safe. Some information about the materials is made available through Material Safety Data Sheets, which can provide cursory medical advice for workers exposed to the chemicals.



1. Call to Order – 7:00 p.m.
14. Update from Planning Commission on recommendations from the Joint Setback Study

KM's comments:  Good evening all.

It will be interesting to hear what the county administrator will present regarding the planning commission's recommendations (which have not been recommended at all).  It will be a long meeting due to the Climax Rd. hearing and the fact that the setback committee issue is at the end of the agenda.  I hope you can attend to help monitor this situation.

Below is the entire zoning ordinance.  You can use your "find" prompt to search the ordinance using anything you like.  I used "60" and "planning commission."
Sec. 35-807 outlines procedure for requesting a zoning amendment. 
 An amendment is the only was of which I'm aware to change the zoning ordinance. Has anyone actually requested a zoning amendment from the setback committee?  If they had an application should have been submitted as specified in #1 below.   
Then, according to the ordinance, the planning commission after public notice and hearing would make recommendations to the BOS within 60 days as specified in #2 of Sec. 807 or the proposed amendment will be considered approved.
Next, after planning commission public notice, hearing and approval by action within 60 days or assumed approval after 60 days the BOS would have to go through public notice and public hearings before a decision is made.

Fw: setback/ordinance



Proposals for zoning amendments, whether initiated by the Board of Supervisors, the Planning  Commission, or any person, firm, or corporation shall be treated in accordance with the following procedure:

1. An application must be submitted in writing to the Zoning Administrator and must be
accompanied by eight (8) copies of an acceptable site development plan, where applicable, of the proposed amendment in accordance with Division 4-Site Development Plan-herein and with such other reasonable information shown thereon as shall be required by the Zoning Administrator. Copies should be accompanied by a reproducible as specified in Section 35-751. The Zoning Administrator shall submit said application to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The Zoning Administrator may waive full site plan requirements allowing substitution or a concept plan.

2. The Planning Commission shall consider the proposed amendment after notice and public hearing in accordance with Section 15.2-2204 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended. 

The Planning Commission shall present its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors within sixty (60) days of the first meeting of the Commission after the proposed amendment has been referred to it, otherwise the Planning Commission shall be deemed to have approved the proposed amendment.
3. The Board of Supervisors shall consider the proposed amendment after notice and public hearing in accordance with Section 15.2-2204 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended, and shall take action on the proposed amendment within sixty (60) days from the date of the public hearing.


Friday, August 15, 2014

The Scariest States in the United States Named By Estately

Comments:  The reason to so no to uranium mining and fracking!


By Sean Breslin Published: Jul 23, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT

There are states some people might fear because of natural disasters and other threats.
Real estate search site Estately took a handful of our common fears and created a list of the states where those fears occur most frequently. Included in those factors were fears of hurricanes and tornadoes (lilapsophobia), as well as volcanoes (ifestíophobia) and other fears in nature, like snakes (ophidiophobia) or spiders (arachnophobia).
The study ranked each state based on the prevalence of 15 common fears. The 10 scariest states are below, and if your home state didn't make the top-10, check here to see where it ranks on the full list.

10. Virginia

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Local resident Betty Coll (L) shows friend Joe Straub (R) damage in front of her house after a powerful overnight storm, June 30, 2012 in Falls Church, Virginia.
Virginia only ranked in the top-10 of one category – fear of hurricanes. According to NOAA data, Virginia ranks ninth in the nation for the most direct hits from hurricanes from 1851 to 2004. Although the state doesn't rank at the top of any categories on the list, Virginia is in the top 15 of six categories – fear of hurricanes, bears, prison, flying, shark attacks and, get this, volcanoes.

North Carolina

Strong winds and heavy surf cover Highway 64 at the Albemarle Sound caused by Hurricane Arthur on July 3, 2014 in Nags Head, North Carolina.
People with a fear of hurricanes, shark attacks or lightning would be well-advised to steer clear of North Carolina, where all three situations are present, especially near the coast. Tornadoes aren't unheard of, but less common than some of North Carolina's neighboring states – the Tar Heel State ranks No. 26 for that particular fear.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The 11th Hour

With contributions from over 50 politicians, scientists, and environmental activists, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, physicist Stephen Hawking, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and journalist Paul Hawken, the film documents the grave problems facing the planet's life systems.

Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans' habitats are all addressed. The film's premise is that the future of humanity is in jeopardy. The film proposes potential solutions to these problems by calling for restorative action by the reshaping and rethinking of global human activity through technology, social responsibility and conservation.

Not all scientists agree on the fact that global warming is an immediate threat. Although every scientist in this movie apparently does.

 Every expert interviewed stressed the fact that human involvement in the fight against global warming is mandatory. This is due to the fact that the increased anthropogenic cycle is pinned down as the main cause of climate change in the movie.

The role of humans in the destruction of the environment is explained from the viewpoint of several different professional fields: environmental scientists, oceanographers, economic historians, medical specialists, etc. The best example of this came from philosopher Wade Davis who theorized that to people, “You are either a person or property,” referring to mankind’s view on land and natural resource. (Excerpt from

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nuclear spill worse than Three-Mile Island occurred in Church Rock NM in 1979


Church Rock Uranium Mill Spill

The Church Rock Uranium Mill Spill occurred in New Mexico, USA, in 1979 when United Nuclear Corporation‘s Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam. Over 1,000 tons of radioactive mill waste and millions of gallons of mine effluent flowed into the Puerco River. Local residents used river water for irrigation and livestock and were not immediately aware of the toxic danger. In terms of the amount of radiation released the accident was comparable in magnitude to the Three Mile Island accident of the same year and has been reported as the largest radioactive accident in U.S. History.

The Spill

On July 16, 1979, United Nuclear Corporation’s Church Rock uranium mill tailings disposal pond breached its dam and 1100 tons of radioactive mill waste and approximately 93 million gallons of mine effluent flowed into the Puerco River. The contaminated water from the Church Rock spill traveled 80 miles downstream, traveling through Gallup, New Mexico and reaching as far as Navajo County, Arizona. The flood backed up sewers, affected nearby aquifers and left stagnating pools on the riverside.
The 50 ft. earthen dam was recognized as built on geologically unsound land by the corporation’s consultant and federal agencies. By 1977 cracks had appeared in the dam and went unreported to authorities. According to Paul Robinson, research director at the Southwest Research and Information Center, the spill resulted from “poor oversight, poor siting and poor construction” and is an example of the problems that can occur at uranium mines and mills.

Radiation Release

In terms of the amount of radiation released the accident was comparable in magnitude to the Three Mile Island accident of the same year and has been reported as “the largest radioactive accident in U.S. History”. Shortly after the breach below the dam radiation levels of river water were 7000 times that of the allowable level of drinking water. In all, 46 curies of transuranic elements and heavy metals were released.
Although steps were taken at the time of the accident to notify the public in accordance with a state contingency plan, local residents were not immediately aware of the toxic danger and were accustomed to using the riverside for recreation and herb gathering. Residents wading in the water went to the hospital complaining of burning feet and were diagnosed with heat stroke. Livestock were also found dying.[3] Prior to the accident local residents used river water for irrigation and livestock. The eventual assistance of trucked in water ended in 1981 and farmers were then left with little choice other than to resume use of the river.
For some types of cancers Navajo have a significantly higher rate than the national average. Yet, no ongoing epidemiological studies have been done at Church Rock. A peer reviewed article in the American Journal of Public Health in 2007 proposed that the stark lack of peer-reviewed studies of health effects of the accident when compared to well studied events such as Three Mile Island may be related to both the “early stage in the nuclear cycle” (mining, milling and processing) dependent on a large numbered labor-force and “low-income rural American Indian communities”.

Clean Up

Clean up was performed by state and federal criteria. About 3,500 barrels of waste materials were retrieved (estimated at only 1%). However, according Robinson, only a “very little of the spilled liquid was pumped out of the water supply”. The uranium mill site closed in 1982 related to a declining uranium market. In 1983 the site entered the National Priorities List of the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Superfund investigations and clean up efforts because radionuclides and chemical constituents were recognized as entering local ground water. In 1994 the EPA extended its efforts with a study of all known uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

Radioactivity and It’s Effects

Soon after the dam break, two West German radiation biologists, Bernd Franke and Barbara Steinhilber-Schwab, sharply criticized the issued CDC report that downplayed the potential dangers of the accident and for sampling too few of the local livestock. They urged chromosome checks on area residents and called for the establishment of cancer and birth registries as well as intense ongoing radiation monitoring in the area. They also warned that thorium and other isotopes from the spill could enter the human body not only through eating contaminated animals, but also when radioactive dust settled on vegetables. Dr. Carl Johnson, director of Colorado’s Jefferson County Health Department, further warned that detectable radiation levels in the tissues of children might only surface “over a period of many years.”
Potential pathways of contamination are: inhalation, ingestion, injection, and absorption. At present, there is an elevated health risk for people who frequent the site from inhaling radium contaminated dust particles and/or radon gas, contact with contaminated rainwater and runoff that has pooled in ponds, and ingesting livestock that have drank and fed from contaminated water and grass.
Different radio-nuclides emit gamma rays of varying strength, but gamma rays can travel long distances and are able to penetrate entirely through the body. Both thorium 230 and radium 226 are alpha-emitters; extremely dangerous if ingested or inhaled.  Therefore, any skin contact with contaminated surfaces poses a health risk. Thorium 230, for example, has a half-life of eighty thousand years and is believed by some to be as toxic as plutonium. Thorium, a silver-white metal, tends to deposit in the liver, bone marrow, and lymphatic tissue, where even minute quantities can cause cancer and leukemia. If inhaled as dust it can cause lung cancer. According to a study by Winterer, under some circumstances thorium can become “trapped” in the body, making it “a permanent source of radiation” there, and thus doing untold damage to the human organism.
Elevated concentrations of Radium-226 have been detected throughout the 125-acre mine permit boundary and contiguous surface areas. Exposure to high levels of Radium-226 over a long period of time may result in harmful effects including anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer (especially bone cancer), and death. Exposure to high levels of uranium can cause kidney disease.
In 1983, the privately owned site, owned by UNC, was designated a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who detected elevated radium and uranium contamination in 14 areas on and off-site, and beyond the permit boundary. The CDC warned locals not to drink water from the river, and to avoid its banks during windstorms, when radioactive particles might be more easily inhaled. The CDC emphasized that while radiation levels detected in local animals did not exceed New Mexico standards, caution should be exercised as “the health risks of low doses of radiation” were “not completely understood.” 

Contamination had exceeded low dosage levels in local animals. One veterinarian told a documentary crew from Eleventh Hour Films that abnormal radiation levels had been found in the tissues of goats and sheep that were drinking Rio Puerco water.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pollution of past mines: Church Rock


The majority of mining in the United States occurred during the time period between WWII and the end of the Cold War. Former mines, now closed, continue to pose a serious health and environmental threat. Because of the radioactive nature of uranium and its half life of 4.5 billion years, the pollution it causes when released into the environment through mining will have long term effects.

Even the waste tailings, whose uranium content is significantly lower, has long term effects on the environment because it contains thorium 230 and radium 226 whose half lives are 75,000 years and 1,600 years. It is therefore impossible to overlook the mining pollution from 30 years ago; the dangers it poses to the surrounding area and communities are as real now as they were when uranium mining commenced.

Every mining site produces some level of pollution due to the pile up of radioactive waste rock, and the inevitable leaking and dumping of contaminated waters and waste products. Church Rock, New Mexico, part of the Navajo Nation, provides a good picture of the ongoing damage mines cause and the difficulty Native Americans have in ensuring that mining companies will take responsibility for their pollution.

Church Rock is a former mining site which has been closed for over 20 years, yet without ever being properly decommissioned. The mine experienced a massive mining waste (tailings) spill in 1979 when a dam broke and sent over 1,000 tons of tailings and 100 million gallons of radioactive water flooding out and into the Puerco River. The radioactive pollution spread quickly, and the Puerco River recorded 7,000 times the amount of radioactivity allowable for drinking water, though some reports at the time stated that the spill didn’t pose an immediate health hazard.

In the present day, the abandoned Church Rock mine site still has a 30 foot high pile of mining waste, very near to which Navajo homes exist and children play, and which spreads radioactive dust over the area whenever the wind blows .

The Puerco River still contains radioactive levels unsafe to drink, though many Navajo water their livestock from it due to a lack of choice and ability to prevent animals from entering the poisonous water.

What results is a constant exposure to radioactivity through the inhalation of dust, eating plants onto which the dust has settled, and consuming livestock with build-ups of radioactivity in their muscles, kidneys and livers.

The Navajo Nation has appealed to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to aid them in getting on the priority list for Superfund, a multi-billion dollar US government fund which is meant to pay for the cleaning up of toxic sites. Church Rock Mine is on the Superfund list, along with more of Navajo Nation’s nearly 1,000 abandoned mines.

The legal processes are slow and no steps forward have been made to effectively clean up the mine.

The Navajo Nation in 2006 declared that uranium mining would no longer be allowed on Navajo land, but regardless the company is challenging whether or not the area in question is “Indian Land” and if Navajo law could be applicable.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Dangers of Uranium

Nuclear Colonialism: Uranium Mining/ Nuclear Testing/ Nuclear Dumping

  • Uranium mining, milling, and nuclear testing carries with it serious health and environmental dangers. Native American communities have unequally suffered the burden of these consequences since the beginning of U.S. uranium operations

Nuclear power is currently being marketed as a solution to the energy crisis and global warming. This has spawned an increase in the demand and price of uranium, which has resulted in a global growth of mines at an alarming pace. Mines in the United States, which have been closed since the end of the cold war, are now being considered for reopening. These past mines caused serious health and environmental damage to the surrounding peoples and lands, and many of the mines’ radioactive waste has still not been properly cleaned up. The continuation of these mines’ operations would mean devastation for the local peoples.

Nuclear power is not a solution for anything, and causes more harm than good. The problems that it and uranium mining creates are vast, and carries with it long term consequences.
  • Nuclear power is not in any way energy efficient. Each step in the “nuclear chain” including the mining, milling and enrichment of uranium, the construction of nuclear power plants, and the treatment and storage of nuclear waste are incredibly energy intensive- and much of this energy is supplied by fossil fuels. In comparison to wind energy, nuclear power releases 3-4 times more CO2 per unit of energy produced taking account of the whole fuel cycle.
  • Uranium mining poses huge health risks to its workers, the majority of whom are Native Americans employed in the low paying mining positions. They are exposed to dust and radioactive radon gas, presenting a lung cancer hazard. For example, in the United States 87% of lung cancer cases are a result of smoking. Among underground uranium miners however, it is estimated that 70% of lung cancer deaths in non-smoking miners and 40% of lung cancer deaths in smoking miners are due to exposure to radon progeny.
  • Mining causes serious environmental and health damage to surrounding land and populations. During mining operations, large volumes of contaminated water are pumped out of the mine and released to rivers and lakes, spreading into the environment. Ventilation of the mines releases radioactive dust and radon gas, increasing the lung cancer risk of residents living nearby. Piles of so-called waste rock often contain elevated concentrations of radionuclides when compared to normal rock. These piles continue to threaten people and the environment after the shutdown of mines due to their release of radon gas and seepage water containing radioactive and toxic materials .  
  • The above problems caused by uranium mining are just a fraction of its negative impacts. The Native American populations which have come in contact with uranium related activity have suffered disproportionately. The number of people to truly benefit from uranium mining is very slim in comparison to the large amount of peoples it harms. This is a case of environmental racism, where the lands and health of Native Americans are destroyed by profit seeking exploits of the government and corporations.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Global physicians’ scathing criticism of UNSCEAR report on Fukushima nuclear disaster


Fukushima: Bad and Getting Worse -

Global Physicians Issue Scathing Critique of UN Report on Fukushima

CounterPunch, by JOHN LaFORGE, 20 July 14 

There is broad disagreement over the amounts and effects of radiation exposure due to the triple reactor meltdowns after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) joined the controversy June 4, with a 27-page “Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report ‘Levels and effects of radiation exposures due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami.’”

IPPNW is the Nobel Peace Prize winning global federation of doctors working for “a healthier, safer and more peaceful world.” The group has adopted a highly critical view of nuclear power because as it says, “A world without nuclear weapons will only be possible if we also phase out nuclear energy.”

UNSCEAR, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, published its deeply flawed report April 2. Its accompanying press release summed up its findings this way: “No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident.” The word “discernable” is a crucial disclaimer here.


Cancer, and the inexorable increase in cancer cases in Japan and around the world, is mostly caused by toxic pollution, including radiation exposure according to the National Cancer Institute.[1]

But distinguishing a particular cancer case as having been caused by Fukushima rather than by other toxins, or combination of them, may be impossible – leading to UNSCEAR’s deceptive summation. As the IPPNW report says, “A cancer does not carry a label of origin…”

UNSCEAR’s use of the phrase “are expected” is also heavily nuanced. The increase in childhood leukemia cases near Germany’s operating nuclear reactors, compared to elsewhere, was not “expected,” but was proved in 1997. The findings, along with Chernobyl’s lingering consequences, led to the country’s federally mandated reactor phase-out. The plummeting of official childhood mortality rates around five US nuclear reactors after they were shut down was also “unexpected,” but shown by Joe Mangano and the Project on Radiation and Human Health.

The International Physicians’ analysis is severely critical of UNSCEAR’s current report which echoes its 2013 Fukushima review and press release that said, “It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers.”

“No justification for optimistic presumptions”

The IPPNW’s report says flatly, “Publications and current research give no justification for such apparently optimistic presumptions.”

UNSCEAR, the physicians complain, “draws mainly on data from the nuclear industry’s publications rather than from independent sources and omits or misinterprets crucial aspects of radiation exposure”, and “does not reveal the true extent of the consequences” of the disaster.

As a result, the doctors say the UN report is “over-optimistic and misleading.”

The UN’s “systematic underestimations and questionable interpretations,” the physicians warn, “will be used by the nuclear industry to downplay the expected health effects of the catastrophe” and will likely but mistakenly be considered by public authorities as reliable and scientifically sound. Dozens of independent experts report that radiation attributable health effects are highly likely……….
July 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized