By Sheila Miller

With a Feb. 13 deadline for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to make a final decision on allowing high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York, one must read the first paragraph of the Department of Health’s report on Love Canal to understand the magnitude this decision can have on future health impacts.

“The lessons we are learning from this modern-day disaster should serve as a warning for governments at all levels and for private industry to take steps to avoid a repetition of these tragic events. They must also serve as a reminder to be ever watchful for the tell-tale signs of potential disasters and to look beyond our daily endeavors and plan for the wellbeing of future generations.” – Department of Health special report to Legislature, 1978.

The gas industry will not disclose the chemicals used in fracking, or what is disturbed underground and brought back to the surface for disposal, such as radon and radium 226. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement made an attempt to identify what chemicals were used and what compounds were found in the flow back. The health hazardous chemicals found at Love Canal, such as benzene, tuolene and xylene, were inclusive amongst the 680 identified known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors found in the frack-produced waste, which also includes formaldehyde, arsenic and chromium 6, to name a few. Sixty-eight chemical products used in the process are missing information; an additional 20 are unidentifiable because they are mixtures.

With Compulsory Integration, they can drill and pump these chemicals as shallow as 2,000 feet (within 800 feet of the depth fracked in Pavillion, Wy., where pollutants have been found in the aquifer) under your house, without your permission, and within 300 feet of your front door. These chemicals burp up through the well bore, like acid reflux, for the life of the gas well.

And since hexavalent chromium went unreported by the industry but was discovered in the flowback by the DEC, as well as the Buffalo public water supply by the EPA in December 2010, can we be assured that water treatment facilities will test and filtrate radioactive waste and known toxins? At the end of the day, any treated water is not potable and requires even further dilution.

The DEC acknowledged the risk of this controversial process by banning drilling in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds. However, rural landowners, as potential collateral damage, have no means of proactive monitoring. When contamination occurs, the industry’s response is “prove it.”

The 30-year life expectancy on the cap over the Love Canal Superfund site expired five years ago. Let’s not let the lessons learned expire with it. New York’s health and well-being are at stake.

Sheila Miller of Orchard Park is local coordinator for Food & Water Watch.