Apex Energy has applied for a Drill and Operate Permit for a fracking well called Draftina Central Pad-31. This is one of many well pads proposed by Apex in the community of Penn-Trafford. Protect PT wrote this letter opposing the permit, as it would threaten the health of residents living near the proposed well pad and Westmoreland County’s drinking water and air quality.
The community has long sought to protect itself from this proposed well. Apex has only advanced this far in the permitting process because it filed a lawsuit against the community.
Apex has a long history of non-compliance with laws and regulations. We found 104 instances of non-compliance. 33 out of 104 of Apex’s violations remained unresolved. Until they prove they can clean up the messes they already created, why would we trust they won’t just break the law again here? Why should this community sacrifice their health and well-being just to provide Apex an opportunity for future violations?
This well pad will generate industrial noise, water, and air pollution near homes in Bouquet and Claridge, but an emergency response plan (ERP) was not submitted as a component of this well permit application by Apex.
Abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure in the area provides additional threats. The proposed well location is within hundreds of feet of areas that were mined for coal. Bouquet is located above shallow mines that could subside if disturbed by fracking activity.
There are at least seven abandoned or orphaned wells that we know of within approximately 0.5 miles of the proposed fracking well, any of which could provide a route for groundwater contamination. In June 2022, an unconventional well operated by EQT communicated with an abandoned well in an event referred to as a “frac-out”, leading to contamination of residents’ drinking water.
Radiation is also a risk with wells like this. Levels of radioactive particles in the air are highest in areas within 12 miles of a well. This is just one of many examples of this regularly occurring phenomenon.
The relative proportion of elderly people living within 1 mile of the well is in the 80th – 90th national percentile. Many elderly people have mobility issues that could prevent them from evacuating quickly if there were a catastrophic incident at the proposed well pad.
A recent Harvard study concluded that residential exposure to fracking is associated with an elevated risk of 2.5% for all-cause mortality for the elderly. Elderly people living closer to or downwind of fracking wells are at higher risk of premature death.
But it’s not only the elderly who are at greater risk of disease from living near fracking. A 2022 study conducted on children in PA found that living near fracking was associated with a 1.74 – 2.80 times greater odds of children developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia. That’s consistent with a 2021 investigation of families residing in southwestern PA, in which air, water, and urine samples were taken. The results showed chemicals such as ethylbenzene, styrene, naphthalene, 1,2,3-trimethylbenzene, and toluene. Ethylbenzene has been shown to increase the risk of cancer.
For residents, it’s not a question of, ‘will there be a human health impact from nearby well pad operations?’. The question is, ‘to what extent will human health be negatively impacted from a nearby well pad?’.
A homeowner owns a house 650 feet away from this proposed well, downwind and downhill. They are likely to experience industrial noise and light, airborne toxic emissions, surface/stormwater runoff, as well as increase the potential for contamination of their water well, which is their only source of water.
More homes are located 1,500 feet from the well. When notices to the property owners where the water wells were identified, the information from Apex omitted at least three private water wells within 3000 feet. These three property owners were never notified of the requested permits, and their water could become contaminated by this project.
The 43rd Statewide Investigating Grand Jury Report showed a systematic failure by government agencies in adequately regulating the oil and gas industry and fulfilling their responsibility to protect Pennsylvanians from the inherent risks of industry operations. The Grand Jury recommended increasing the setback requirements from the current 500 feet to 2,500 feet from water wells and homes or schools.
Article 1, Section 27, of the PA Constitution clearly states, “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.” These fundamental rights would be violated by the construction of this well.
Click here to send a copy of this letter to the PA Department of Environmental Protection, urging them not to approve this well.