Pennsylvania’s Department of Agriculture has quarantined several cows in Tioga County after they were exposed to natural gas drilling wastewater.
Dept. of Agriculture spokesman Justin Fleming says after making contact with the contaminated ‘fracking’ water, the 28 cattle will be withheld from the market from six months to two years, depending on each cow’s age.
The drilling wastewater is thought to have leaked from a nearby holding pond that serves an East Resources, Inc. gas well.
Fleming says it’s uncertain if the beef cows actually drank the wastewater, but its high salinity is likely to have attracted them.
While the Dept. of Agriculture can’t test the cows without killing them, Fleming says toxic chemicals were found in the water itself.
“Tests on the wastewater found that it contained chloride, iron, sulphate, barium, magnesium, sodium, strontium, and other elements,” says Fleming. “While I’m not positively sure about what those effects could be on animals, we don’t want chemicals like that in any supply of meat that could be purchased in a store here in Pennsylvania or elsewhere.”
The 28 cows quarantined are all but two of the farmer’s stock.
Fleming says while he can’t speculate on whether events like this will become more common soon, most natural gas drilling is done in rural areas.
Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to Eastern Resources. DEP spokesman Tom Rathbun says the company will be fined within the next month or so; he says the severity of that fine depends on the company's behavior regarding the situation. Rathbun says the DEP has finished cleaning up the wastewater.