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Major release of gases at Roseland, New Jersey compressor station site; nausea reported. What to do when impacted

June 16, 2013
“On Thursday there was a major release of gases in Roseland, New Jersey, where a new compressor station is being built,” reports Ted Glick, a participant in the regional Pipeline Protection network and Coordinator of the Essex Passaic Greens. Glick described the June 14th release in an email: 
I got two emails and two urgent phone calls from Roseland people we’ve been working with. One of the calls, from an office building 100 yards or so from the [compressor station] construction site, was about people getting nausea and sick because it [the gas odor] was so strong. The other was about the local elementary school in Roseland, less than a mile from the site, being locked down because of it.
Less than a month ago there was another “planned release” of gas that local people didn’t know about which led to the lockdown of a public school in East Hanover. Local people have been telling us they’ve been smelling gas more often than in the past.
As of now, this incident remains invisible in the media. Please share this post and share any further details, news reports, and updates in the Comment section. Although this incident took place in Roseland, NJ (see map below), it follows a bottomless series of compressor station explosions and fires, as well as ongoing toxic emissions from the life cycle of shale gas, so the “what to do” discussion is relevant to many areas and to a wide variety of incidents.

What to do if you are impacted by a gas release or other environmental threat

Note: below is an incomplete and minimalist set of suggestions. Emissions associated with compressor stations as well as multiple stages of high-volume unconventional drilling can make you very sick, so if symptoms begin to emerge such as  nosebleeds, dizziness, blackouts, nausea, rashes, sore and blistered throats, newly diagnosed asthma, etc., in addition to seeking medical care, you may need to consider moving. We are horrified at the ongoing displacement of people in shale country who face an agonizing choice between the homes they love and their health. It is crucial that people to stay and fight, but: health first.
All affected people should, at a minimum: keep a log of what happened, including timing of odors and any health impacts. Taking the time to document incidents, as well as ongoing emissions, thoroughly will be a tremendous help. Suggestions: 
  • Call to report the incident to the National Response Center at: 1-800-424-8802
  • Document, document, document: keep a detailed log. Include your calls and emails in your log: with whom did you speak, what did you say, who responded, what did they say, what is their contact information?
  • Report in writing and by phone to both county and state Departments of Health
  • If possible, start air quality testing with a reputable third party; include methane testing
  • Report fracking infrastructure emissions to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC Hotline. FERC is responsible for permitting the construction of pipelines and compressor stations, and is therefore responsible for ongoing emissions as well as big releases like this one. FERC Enforcement Hotline:
    Telephone: 202-502-8390
    Toll-free: 1-888-889-8030
    Email: hotline@ferc.gov
  • When you visit your health professional, make sure to mention the incident or ongoing emissions so that it is documented clearly in your medical chart; and make sure to mention any symptoms you believe may correspond to this or related incidents, even if seemingly minor, because of the relationship between acute and cumulative impacts. Studies have found that most people do not mention environmental degradation or pollution incidents to their doctors even when highly relevant, timely and important.
  • Important: talk. Talk to your neighbors, to activist networks, and to journalists. The general public still has no comprehension of the daily emissions, intentional and accidental, impacting our air and climate from the shale gas industry.  Although you may be reeling from the incident(s) and coping, as much as you are able, tell the world.
  • Use the Clean Air Council form to report the incident! This is specific to Marcellus Shale gas industry air releases. http://www.cleanair.org/program/outdoor_air_pollution/marcellus_shale/%E2%80%9Ccommon_senses%E2%80%9D_citizen_air_monitoring

More about the National Response Center

With so many emergencies caused by the fracking frenzy, it’s easy for impacted people to fall into despair, to feel helpless or to feel that the chemical smells, gas releases, fracking and flaring emissions, spills, contaminated water, or health impacts they are experiencing don’t matter. But we must report emissions that we can smell. The incident you smell may not make you sick right away, but a little closer to the source it may be causing nausea or nosebleeds, shutting down schools temporarily, causing headaches, blistered throats, and more. If you report the smell, it validates the incident and makes it harder for the powers that be to dismiss the person who went to the emergency room with a nosebleed, for example, as “just one person.” 
We know the cumulative impacts from shale gas development are deadly in terms of climate change. But Americans’ fixation on  the short term means that often only acute impacts get attention. Here is how the National Response Center defines an “environmental emergency”:  

An environmental emergency is a sudden threat to the public health or the well-being of the environment, arising from the release or potential release of oil, radioactive materials, or hazardous chemicals into the air, land, or water.

Examples of environmental emergencies include:

  • oil and chemical spills,
  • radiological and biological discharges, and
  • accidents causing releases of pollutants

These emergencies may occur from transportation accidents, events at chemical or other facilities using or manufacturing chemicals, or as a result of natural or man-made disaster events. If you are involved in or witness an environmental emergency that presents a sudden threat to public health, you must call the National Response Center at: 1-800-424-8802.

Call your State Department of Environmental Protection? YES.

Wow.

The Pennsylvania experience with our Department of Environmental Protection has been so dismal that I almost hit “publish” on this “what to do” list without even mentioning them. People in shale country refer to PA DEP as “Don’t Expect Protection,” and “Department of Everything Permitted,” and have broadly lost faith in the responsiveness, honesty and effectiveness of PA DEP, especially under Governor Corbett.

However, Right to Know requests are now turning up hundreds of confirmed cases of water contamination buried in PA DEP records. I heard yesterday and have not validated yet that PA DEP has now confirmed 267 cases of water contamination from shale gas development (from drilling and fracking to waste handling: all phases) in just four counties. That is over 100 more cases than journalist Laura Legere was able to find from PA DEP for the whole state.

If people didn’t report those contamination incidents to begin with, the public wouldn’t know about it at all.

So call them. Report, report, report. Keep reporting. We’ve developed laws, procedures and requirements for protecting the environment and our health over decades, and even Governor Corbett’s best efforts at denial have not resulted in completely successful denial of the impacts of this industry. Other states have more functional, and less functional, departments of environmental protection and conservation. Leadership changes. The people may elect more responsible governors who may appoint department heads who have integrity, dedication and grit. A state or federal Attorney General may get involved. An investigative journalist may arrive on the scene a year later, after yet another major incident, and want to blow the story wide open, starting at the beginning. When that happens, the more incidents and violations, complaints and descriptions of odors, emissions, spills and symptoms on record, the better.

VOC Emissions

Methane, volatile organic chemical (VOC) emissions seen through an infrared camera — but the naked eye sees nothing.

We can’t know what we know unless we tell what we know. So, keeping your expectations low and your frustration tolerance high, please report the incident(s) even to those agencies most likely to  arrive three days late when the wind is blowing in the other direction and say, “I don’t smell anything.”

Finally, don’t let the frustration from reporting and asking authorities to help take away your own power. We all have more power than we know, and you may yet find a way with your neighbors and networks to directly stop the source that’s hurting your environmental health. Learn from success stories and keep your eyes on the prize.

2 Comments
  1. June 16, 2013 5:50 pm

    horrible; what are the elected officials saying about this ? why is it okay for us to be exposed to this ?

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