Two meetings have been scheduled on the impacts of developing the Marcellus Shale in Western Maryland. The gatherings, sponsored by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, are scheduled for Tuesday, September 24th at Frostburg State University's Compton Science Building from 7:00 PM until 10:00 PM. The second one is set for Saturday, October 5th from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM in the Auditorium at Garrett College in McHenry. At both meetings, DHMH says citizens are invited to present their views and suggestions for developing the Marcellus Shale.
DHMH has been asked by the Maryland Department of the Environment to look into the public health impacts of developing the Marcellus Shale. DHMH will oversee the study, but the actual research will be done by the University of Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health. "One of the things that they're doing, in addition to using their own expertise and looking at the existing literature, is they're going out and asking members of the public at large and members in the affected communities, what things should potentially be included in that public health project," says Dr. Clifford Mitchell with DHMH.
The Marcellus Shale, which runs through Mid-Atlantic states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, is a rock formation deep underground which is projected to contain large supplies of oil and natural gas. Companies which extract fuels such as these use a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to mine these fuels. That process involves injecting water, chemicals and sand to break the rocks, and remove the oil and natural gas from these deep formations. "And that is an industrial activity which requires trucking, pipelines, drilling, fluids management, a whole bunch of things," says Dr. Mitchell.
Opponents say the process contaminates well water. But the extraction industry says "fracking" is not the reason for contaminated well water.
The governor has put a moratorium on "fracking" in Maryland until it can be determined if it can be done safely and not adversely affect the environment. He also appointed an advisory board to look into these issues. It's expected to have a final report by August, 2014.
That's also when the University of Maryland is expected to present its report on the public health impacts of developing the Marcellus Shale.
This underground rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale is located mostly in Garrett County, with some sections of Allgheny County.