Read the full article by Kristina Marusic (Environmental Health News)
“PITTSBURGH—Toxic ‘forever chemicals’, also known as PFAS, have been used in at least eight oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, but the exact location of those wells has never been publicly disclosed — until now.
Experts say it’s possible that communities where PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been used by the oil and gas industry could face contamination of soil, groundwater and drinking water — and that contamination could be widespread.
The chemicals don’t break down naturally, so they linger in the environment and human bodies. Exposure is linked to health problems including kidney and testicular cancer, liver and thyroid problems, reproductive problems, lowered vaccine efficacy in children and increased risk of birth defects, among others.
Last year, a report by the environmental health advocacy group Physicians for Social Responsibility revealed that PFAS have been used in hydraulic fracturing and other types of oil and gas extraction across the U.S. for at least a decade, and an EHN investigation published in August documented PFAS contamination in one Pennsylvania fracking community resident’s drinking water.
A 2021 op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that the chemicals were used in at least eight wells in Pennsylvania, but did not disclose the location of the wells. Physicians for Social Responsibility recently published a new report on the use of PFAS in Ohio oil and gas wells. In a footnote, that report listed the location for all eight Pennsylvania wells where well operators reported using PFAS in public fracking chemical disclosures.
The Pennsylvania wells where PFAS have been used are located in the following communities:
- Chippewa Township, Beaver County (population 7,953)
- Donegal Township, Washington County (population 2,192)
- Independence Township, Washington County (two wells) (population 1,515)
- Pulaski Township, Lawrence County (three wells) (population 3,102)
- West Finley Township, Washington County (population 813)
The operators for all eight wells reported using polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE, which is a type of PFAS marketed as Teflon, in fracking fluid. PFAS may also be used during other phases of oil and gas extraction that don’t require any kind of public disclosure. It’s likely that the chemicals have been used in additional Pennsylvania oil and gas wells, but a lack of transparency makes it impossible to know.
PFAS are likely being used in oil and gas wells throughout the country, but little research exists on how widespread the practice is and whether it’s causing drinking water contamination. Most existing research on PFAS has focused on other sources of the chemicals, like firefighting foam used at airports and military bases and industrial emissions. Investigations have found drinking water contamination in communities across the country.” …