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Fracking the Everglades: Enviros Claim State Deception on Water Quality

Citizen activists opposed to oil drilling in the Everglades claim the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a "bogus" clean bill of health for Texas oil company Dan A. Hughes' acid fracking operation in Collier County.

See also: Dropping Acid in the Everglades: Fracking War Drags On in Collier County

Citing an analysis by their court-certified expert, biochemist Dr. Ron Bishop, the group Preserve Our Paradise says the DEP's claims are "arguably intended to obfuscate" the results of water quality tests at the Collier-Hogan well, not far from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Orangetree suburb of Naples.

Fracking the Everglades: Enviros Claim State Deception on Water Quality

The Collier-Hogan well has been ground zero in Florida's fracking wars since late February, when Collier residents and environmentalists state- and nationwide learned that the DEP had sanctioned Hughes for unauthorized fracking there. The fracking and sanctions, including a $25,000 fine, dated to last December but were not disclosed through months of hearings this year on the Hughes Co.'s Florida activities.

The Collier County Commission, dissatisfied with DEP's handling of the matter and its assurances of public safety and environmental safeguards, has filed a legal challenge asking that the well's permit be pulled. At a Commission meeting yesterday, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard tried to dissuade the commission, to no effect. The Hughes Co. failed to appear at the meeting, despite DEP's promise to "press" the company for "transparency."

DEP claims groundwater testing at the well site has revealed "no evidence of contamination." Here's how Preserve Our Paradise's expert broke that down:

The chemicals for which tests were done were indeed a cookie-cutter list, cheaper by the hundred, and arguably intended to obfuscate the purpose of the tests. This is not even a close call; the list includes benzoic acid, which is so sparingly soluble in water that it cannot physically dissolve at hazardous levels, a fair number of phthalates (plasticizers) which are not used by the petroleum industry, and a large number of halogenated organics which may be problematic for water treatment systems that use chlorine, but not for drillers anywhere...

...there were no tests for any biocides (bromine-based or aldehyde), corrosion inhibitors (acetophenone derivatives, propargyl alcohol or thioglycolic acid), multi-purpose solvent additives (especially 2-butoxyethanol, used ubiquitously in petroleum projects), or flocculants (especially ammonium chloride). There were also no tests for chemicals such as acrylonitrile, which are commonly used to coat sand particles in deep well projects.

Therefore, the simplest explanation is that the chemicals for which Hughes / FDEP conducted tests were carefully chosen to avoid any which are commonly used by the petroleum industry.

Also, as you pointed out, such shallow monitoring wells would capture only surface spills.

In a text message to New Times, Dr. Karen Dwyer, a key figure in citizen resistance to oil drilling in the Everglades, said this:

Dan A. Hughes was a no-show [at yesterday's Commission meeting] which means they should have their permit revoked since they refused to meet one of the 9 DEP "non-negotiable" stipulations. WHAT WE NEED IS A STATEWIDE BAN ON EXTREME EXTRACTION, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, FRACKING."

Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact fire.ant@browardpalmbeach.com.




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