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From Enbridge Tar Sands Disaster to PA Fracking, Reports of Seizures Abound

February 19, 2012

The Enbridge Tar Sands oil disaster over a year ago in the Kalamazoo River is “worse than originally reported,” according to analyst  Beth Wallace. Over 1.1 million gallons of tar sands oil have been recovered so far and remediation efforts are continuing well into 2012.

Line 6B Enbridge Energy

The pipeline that burst during the Enbridge tar sands oil spill in Michigan – July 2010
Wallace reports,

On November 9th, 2011, the U.S. EPA updated their webpage to reflect the latest recovery efforts for the Enbridge tar sands oil spill.  It is now being reported that well over 1.1 million gallons of tar sands oil has been recovered from the spill site. This is a difference of nearly 300,000 gallons of oil from the 840,000 that Enbridge is reporting as spilled.

But another devastating aspect of the Enbridge aftermath is depicted in the Youtube video, “Seizures from Tar Sands Oil Spill.”  It’s disturbing; it’s raw; and people should watch it. And I think people should think about it. And then begin organizing much more seriously and directly to stop extreme fossil fuel extraction than any organizing we’ve seen yet. It’s extraordinarily obvious that our leaders can’t lead, so we must lead ourselves — lead away from the precipice over which we are already falling like lemmings.

I continue to wonder why Angelina is having seizures. Until last November, she lived in a part of Bradford County, PA surrounded by Chesapeake Energy high-volume hydrofracturing for natural gas. Although they didn’t suspect it at first, and therefore kept drinking and showering in the water for some time after becoming ill, her family’s water was contaminated by high methane and, they said, arsenic, barium, radium, uranium, and other contaminants which may include hydrocarbons. Angelina’s mother, Judy Stiles, told me that Angelina had almost passed out in the shower several times while they were still showering in, and drinking, water they later learned was contaminated. And now, over a year after they moved out, Angelina has been having seizures for many months. She is pregnant, and I worry about her every day. What is causing the seizures?

I continue to wonder why seizures have also been reported in Butler County, PA; the onset of one person’s seizures was not long after heavy drilling and fracking came to the Connoquenessing Township area of Butler County. I traveled to Butler County in far western PA,  in a situation where I at first thought I was going to be “merely” reporting on the terrible inconvenience people there are enduring when they don’t have any safe water for drinking or bathing, but found myself again confronting the question of seizures.

The youtube video, “Seizures fromTar  Sands Oil Spill,” makes the case that many people began having seizures after the Enbridge disaster, or if they had a pre-existing condition, the seizures became more frequent and got worse. There are no scientists in white coats in this video, just suffering people; a powerpoint presenter explaining that an oil spill can tip the balance in a person’s system already compromised by cumulative chemical exposure; and one level-headed community-minded woman saying, in the end, “stop asking for industry or the government to make it better. We are the ones who have to stop it and make it better” [to paraphrase -- she says it better -- watch her. Listen].

What are we going to do, wait 30 years until we have the scientific “proof” that shows that the seizures people are describing — the seizure shown on the video — the seizures animals and people are beginning to experience in shale country in Pennsylvania — are in fact related to extreme fossil fuel extraction? We can’t wait. Because the word “seizure” used to crop up in my shale gas drilling research about once a month. And now it’s cropping up daily.

That means something. Even I, who keep trying to wake everyone up, who keep trying to report on the reality I see, have found the descriptions of animals’ seizures and deaths so painful to hear about that I kind of “forgot,” kind of blocked out, the farmers who first told me in 2010 about their animals seizing before death. But this reporter tells it straight out in a February 9th, 2012 post, “Fracking’s toll on pets, livestock chills farmers“:

Smelling gas one morning, a southern Pennsylvania farmer almost passed out when he went outside to check on his bellowing cows.

One of the animals did keel over, kicking its feet in spasms. A couple of days later, a calf was fighting for its life, the farmer said. It died.

Something awful is happening over the Marcellus Shale, the vast geological formation in eastern North America where energy companies are looking for natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process for extracting gas by injecting high volumes of water and chemicals into deep wells, has sparked complaints about ruined landscapes and fouled groundwater. Increasingly there is evidence, mostly anecdotal, that animals are suffering.

A new study by veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald, a professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University, chronicles case studies of dozens of farmers and pet owners in six states over the Marcellus Shale.

Their findings, published in “New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,” are a harrowing account of sudden deaths of cattle, as well as reproductive and neurological problems in horses, cats, dogs and other animals.

The Pennsylvania farmers I spoke with have lost cows, calves, a horse, a couple dozen chickens. Many of the animals succumb in the same way: seizure-like symptoms, gasping for breath and a quick wasting away. A Rottweiler and a Dalmatian also fell ill and died.

Animals matter of and for themselves; these animal deaths are terrible. But as Bamberger and Oswald point out, they are also sentinels.

Loyal readers, you are probably missing our best blogger Kristian Boose right now. He used to actually post something light every Sunday. Comic strips. Anti-fracking comic strips to be sure, but funny, brief, not so full of awful thoughts and awful realities as this post.  Here I am, Paul Revere, telling you the seizures are coming, telling you it’s time to fight. If you’re already fighting as hard as you can, fight smarter. If you’re not fighting yet, start now.

Wherever you may be, connect up with like-minded others on the local, regional and national levels. And don’t wait around for our next action alert to do stuff. But please DO follow up on the action alerts! You can subscribe to this blog or just check the “Action Alerts” section of this blog often. Each action you take really matters — don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t. Gandhi said, “You may never know what results come from your action, but if you take no action, there will be no result.”

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4 Comments
  1. February 20, 2012 10:46 am

    Yes we are seeing the same problems here in Michigan..We had farmers lose animals, people hospitalized and died, This is the reason we must rethink our energy policies in this country… Water to drink, and air to breath, something we humans must have to survive.

  2. chris rinker permalink
    November 30, 2012 10:35 am

    on oct 31 2012 5:30 in the morning my wife was wokeup by our large cat jumping on her back. seems i was having a seizure for the first time in my life I might add that I am 50 years old.She called 911 one time in the ambulance I came to then awoke a day and ahalf later and was told that I had a number of seizures during that time.I was checked for all tests in the book brain scans you name it.Doctors found nothing just had my checkup Nov 28 and have great news I am healthy all tests still check out fine and i can wean myself off the meds that were making me sick and moody. but still no one can tell me why. I have been reading all things seizure related untill I saw this article now I am left wondering.I live in Sullivan County fracking has not come here yet but its right up stream but I have had dizzy spells when I am in areas that do frack.they did water samples two years ago but not lately to my knowledge air samples never were taken.

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      December 1, 2012 4:36 pm

      Chris, that is terrible. I’m glad you wrote in. If it’s OK with you I will privately share your email with two people who may possibly be in a position to help you get more information and search for answers. When it comes to often invisible chemicals in water and air, with complicated migratory pathways, answers can be frustratingly elusive. Clearly we wish for you the best possible medical care. Your experience sounds quite scary.

      It sounds like your cat acted like a medical alert and your wife did exactly the right thing, so you have a good team, and you are researching and doing everything you can. It appears to me you might want to have your water re-tested, just in case. You may be sensitive to chemical releases in the air (which can come from drinking water if it is contaminated; or it can come from other pathways). Please be aware that different people have different sensitivity levels. sometimes everyone living near a facility get mildly sick, but some individuals are more likely to experience more extreme symptoms when near sites that drill, frack, store waste, or process shale gas (compressor stations, dehydrators, gas processing plants). There are many variables.

      It would be a good idea to keep a log of your symptoms and include details like time, place and location when you have experienced things like the dizzy spells you just reported here.

      Thanks for writing in, and I sure wish there was more I could do to help. Will write you offline in case two experts I know can possibly be of any assistance. Take care of yourself, and that wife and that cat! Best, Iris

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  1. Seizures From Air and Water Contamination « Swarthmore Mountain Justice

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