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'Fracking' forum draws 200 people

PENN YAN—A group of some 200 people attended a forum on hydrofracking, Sept. 2 at the Penn Yan middle school. Many safety and health concerns about the drilling process for Marcellus Shale were discussed.
The event was sponsored by the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and the Coalition to Protect New York.  Two of the speakers were Dimock, Pa. residents Craig and Julie Sautner who have experienced many of the negative effects from drilling, including a contaminated well.  The two brought in jugs showing how the water looked, with the water in one being brown.
Craig said the family now uses a “water buffalo,” or storage tank, for drinking water that the gas company is responsible for filling.  Before that, he said the family was told, “you will drink the water,” and added they never did.  However, the Sautners did use the water for bathing, and Craig said their daughter developed rashes from the water.
He added that now that they have the water buffalo, the drilling company is also responsible for regularly maintaining it.  Craig said that in 10 months of having it, the tank was cleaned once.
He said he has seen dead bugs and insects in it.  Craig added the gas company has accused him of putting those in the tank.  He said at the time of the forum, the company was told not to fill the water buffalo until the state did testing on the water.  One of the jugs of water he showed was of the brownish colored liquid in the nearly empty tank.
Craig said when filming crews visit the family to do stories, many of the people developed rashes or had problems breathing, while in close proximity to drilling operations.
“We’ve lived like this for two years,” Craig said about the entire water situation.  He added that their son finally had enough, and to get out of the situation, joined the army.
Hunt Country Vineyards co-owner Art Hunt was the first speaker.  He talked about fresh water and the potential impact on tourism and wineries by fracking.  Hunt said he was afraid visitors would stop coming the area if companies were drilling for shale here.
“Most people seem to not be opposed to traditional, conventional gas drilling,” said Hunt.
Another speaker from the area was Mary Howell Martens, co-owner of Lake View Organic Grains.  She said she knows farmers sign leases to allow drilling because they “don’t feel like they have options.”  Martens said farmers have to deal with the cost of production and sales, and still have to pay the bills.
She added that drilling will bring more people to the area, and places like stores and gas stations will benefit.  However, Martens said that once the drilling equipment is set up and underway, the majority of the workers will leave.
Martens explained that this would be different than when the Millennium Pipeline was built.  She said people can’t easily tell where it was installed in Yates County, because crops are now growing over where it cut through fields.
“It’s the responsibility of government to make sure corporations don’t take advantage of individuals,” she added.
Other topics covered were that many of the chemicals used in the fracking process are toxic.  Thomas Shelly, chemical safety and hazardous materials specialist, said there is also air contamination (from dust and carbon monoxide) to consider.
Dr. Adam Law said knowing the chemicals is not the same as knowing the full impacts on health.  He said that the University of Colorado did a study between 2003 and 2008, showing that “no decent studies” of the health impact have been done.  
This forum was part of a series of several such meetings that will be held in six different counties in the coming months.  However, not all of them are scheduled yet. 



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