PHILADELPHIA, July 1 Officials have quarantined
28 cows that may have drunk toxic waste water from natural gas
drilling in Pennsylvania, adding to concerns about health risks
arising from exploiting the state's vast shale deposits.
The cows had access for at least three days to a pool that
formed from a leaking waste water holding pond on a farm in
Tioga County, north-central Pennsylvania, where East Resources
Inc (EOG.N) is drilling into the Marcellus Shale formation.
The state agriculture department said on Thursday that the
toxic water may have contaminated the cows' meat and that they
were quarantined on May 1.
Some of the state's farmers have reported cases of sick
animals and birth malformations that they blame on toxic
chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which
energy companies use to draw gas from deep deposits.
Waste water from the gas drilling process contains
chemicals injected into the ground to fracture the gas-bearing
rock, as well as naturally occurring toxic substances that are
disturbed deep underground during fracking and drilling.
Pennsylvania is estimated to have enough gas in its
Marcellus Shale formation to meet total U.S. needs for a decade
or more and is drawing the attention of major energy companies
as well as groups concerned about possible health risks.
It was the first time the state has quarantined cattle
related to natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, said Justin
Fleming, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department.
Tests found the water contained chemicals including
chloride, magnesium, potassium, and strontium, the department
said in a statement. Strontium, a heavy metal, is of particular
concern because it can be toxic to humans, especially children,
"We took this precaution in order to protect the public
from consuming any of this potentially contaminated product,"
said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding.
No cows were seen drinking the waste water but tracks were
found throughout the pool, and grass was dead in a roughly
30-foot by 40-foot (10-metre by 13-metre) area around it, the
There are 20 adult cows, which will be held from the food
chain for six months, and eight calves which will be removed
from the food chain for two years.
The safety concerns grew after a June 3 incident in which
another Pennsylvania well operated by EOG Resources experienced
the first blowout in the current drilling boom, spewing gas and
fracking fluid into the surrounding area for 16 hours.
(Editing by David Storey)