The DEP is Not Adequately Monitoring Oil & Gas Drilling in Florida

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Dr. Judith Hushon has published a guest editorial on Sept. 8, 2015,  in the Naples Daily News revealing that oil drilling wastewater has been found to be dangerously loaded with acids and toxic chemicals and not properly handled.  The Florida DEP has not adequately monitored the drilling operations which they permit and supposedly oversee.   Dr. Hushon’s article can be read in its entirely here.   Our thanks to Dr. Ray Bellamy of Floridians Against Fracking  for sharing this.

Florida’s geology is different from that in the rest of the country because it has a base rock of limestone resulting from years of superimposed coral reefs collapsing and annealing together.

Florida “fracking” is different from that where fluids are injected under high pressure to open cracks to allow access to trapped oil and gas. Here, acid is also used to dissolve the limerock and enhance oil production.

More than 8,000 gallons of acid were injected in late 2013 into the Collier Hogan well near Immokalee for rock penetration and to enhance oil production. This acid dissolved the limerock, but also the mineral salts that were co-located; this released high concentrations of heavy metals into the flow-back water. These concentrations exceeded 3,000 times the allowable Florida wastewater limit.

Water and suspended materials tend to rise to areas of lesser pressure; this is the principle behind artesian wells. Fluids may also migrate upward through improperly drilled or sealed well casings. This means that anything introduced into the drilling fluids may be found nearer the surface.

We know that petroleum distillates, amines and acrylates were used during the drilling, many of which are carcinogenic though their identities were declared “trade secret.” The samples of flow-back water showed heavy metals, petroleum distillates and other chemicals. These samples were not properly taken or handled so it is not known what exactly was present. Analytic testing of flow-back water isn’t currently required in Florida.

Recent tests from the DEP’s 1,800-foot well at the Collier-Hogan site have shown the presence of metal ions, petroleum distillates and carcinogenic amine compounds.

• At the Hogan well site, DEP was denied access to inspect. The state should have access to any drilling site to inspect and take samples at will. This is the policy in other states and was recommended by Collier County government.

In December 2014, Collier County commissioners voted to lobby Tallahassee to better regulate this type of oil recovery. Their lobbyist was told “to stand down” though none of the commissioners admitted to having done this when Commissioner Penny Taylor asked in April why this occurred and at whose request.

It is time to have our commissioners supporting these principles that benefit all of Collier’s citizens as part of their legislative agenda rather than the interests of the big landowners.

__ Judith Hushon is a PhD who worked for more than 45 years as an environmental consultant in human and eco-toxicology on various hazardous waste sites. She evaluated the analytic data from the Collier Hogan well on behalf of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

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