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Researchers find dangerous chemicals related to fracking waste in Fayette County stream

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — A study from the U.S. Geological Survey and researchers from the University of Missouri found some potentially hazardous chemicals in Wolf Creek–a potential byproduct of the nearby waste water disposal facility–that could impact public health.

While the impact on drinking water isn’t known, the study finds endocrine disrupting chemicals in Wolf Creek. The disruptors can potentially damage human reproductive health, be cancerous in nature, and impact human hormones.

Susan Nagel, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Missouri and the study’s author. She said the study reveals a clear need for a wider examination of the water and how it’s impacted by fracking waste.

“The major action is to call for a very systematic appraisal of the impacts of this waste water disposal on surface bound and drinking water,” she said.

Tom Rhule, co-founder of Headwaters Defense, a clean water advocacy organization in Fayette County, said this type of study is why citizens in Fayette County support the banning of waste water disposal.

“This new study confirms separately that, yeah, there’s frack waste in there,” he said.

Additionally, Rhule believes it’s likely that other areas in the state will face similar challenges with endocrine disruptors do to the number of these injection sites across the state.

“There are some other ones that we believe there is plenty of evidence that they’re leaking as well,” he said.

Dr. Nagel said particular focus needs to be paid to what the endocrine disruptors are capable of in terms of damage to human health.

“We know that these hormones are essential for reproduction, for development, for growth,” she said. “We particularly study the long-term consequences of exposure during fetal development, where we have found impacts on the risk for adult disease.”

“What we do know is that endocrine disruptors absolutely can affect human health, and what we need to study, ‘is this type of activity going to impact human health?'” she said.

The study had been ongoing for several years, and Rhule believes that this is part of what is contributing to annually poor health outcomes in West Virginia.

“The researchers were not unclear in what they said,” he said. “Basically, that the antagonism in water was above levels known to result in adverse health outcome.”

He agreed with the need for a wider study, which could examine far more of the chemical mixtures that result from waste water injection sites.

“It just so happens that frack waste has a lot of really exotic stuff in it,” he said. “That’s what we’re getting at with these endocrine disruptor compounds. It is a huge number of things that are not tested for by these public service districts.”

The EPA released a report last year saying fracking caused no “widespread, systemic” impacts on drinking water. That is being called into question by the Science Advisory Board’s review panel.

As for Fayette County, the ban County Commissioners enacted against wastewater injection wells is being challenged in court.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection apparently received a copy of this study earlier this week.

An audio version of the study can be found here.

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