Marcellus Workplace Injuries on the Rise

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I was first introduced to attorney Jon Ostroff years ago, when he married my treasured pal, Amy. He left an impression on me as the type of guy who prefers mediation over litigation. In other words, he was one of the least litigious lawyers I’ve ever met. When I last saw Jon, a while back, his good-natured, altruistic energy was focused on an orphanage in Cape Town, South Africa that he and Amy had recently adopted. Today, thanks to their family’s intelligent, caring efforts, Love to Langa, is a flourishing foundation which has helped create many a happier, healthier childhood.

Fast forward to the Fracking Boom, and my pleasant surprise at finding Ostroff Injury Law focusing its energy on providing legal recourse for those injured by industrial Marcellus shale gas drilling. Jon and his associates have recently launched frackinginjurylaw.com.

“The Great Fracking Triad”

Accidents that occur at work sites can lead to serious lasting injuries, permanent impairment, or even death,” Jon states on his website, describing what he calls “jobsite horrors.

According to Ostroff:
There are more and more accidents involving trucks or vehicles used as part of fracking operations, including fracking water pump trucks, tanker trucks, dump trucks, operator trucks, or equipment trucks. These accidents caused by fracking vehicles occur on and off fracking sites. Other types of fracking accidents identified by the firm:

  • Accidents with machinery used at a fracking site
  • Burns caused by contact with chemical or fracking brine or from a rig or fuel fire
  • Explosions that occur on a fracking site from the gas or within a gas well, gas storage area, water well or pipeline
  • Rig Accident
  • Fuel Spills

Even if your employer puts a strong emphasis on workplace safety, a single jobsite can have workers from over a dozen companies on location. Not every business will make safety their top concern.

I emailed a list of top-of-mind of questions to Jon, and while I can only imagine he’s busier than ever, he graciously replied in detail, expressing his personal and lawyerly concerns:

Fraccidents Are Just the Beginning

Why not tear apart state park land throughout the remote Allegheny State Forest? What better place for a frack attack! Here, in the middle of this beautiful “state protected” lush forest in rural McKean County, Pennsylvania, fracking companies can literally rape the land, push the workers to exhaustion, ignore worker and water safety….and nobody will ever know. At least not until another worker is seriously injured or killed or the inevitable explosion kills many.

One of my clients was permanently injured when he was run over by a water pump truck deep in the Allegheny State Park. When we told him we wanted to visit the scene of his accident and to tell us how to get there, he laughed. The only way to tell us was to show us. So my partner Mike took the ride…the very long ride, to where our client was crushed by a truck. Once they entered the State Forest, it took nearly two hours, traversing the core of this great Forest on narrow, rut-filled, temporary mud roads built by fracking companies to access places deep in this forest that no vehicle ever accessed before. Miraculously, because our client had driven to this site many times before he was hurt, he navigated his way to the site where he was run down.

The frack attack on Pennsylvania is a recipe for disaster. Most of the land ravaged in the quest for natural gas is in rural parts of the state. Here, unemployment is high and wages are low. Little skill is required and desperation for a job and good wages is the most common denominator. The monster petroleum companies are buying or leasing land for more than the rural landowners ever dreamed of selling it for. The chemicals (which the companies don’t have to disclose) are highly corrosive and have killed others. They will assuredly continue to kill or severely burn fracking workers. Fracking equipment includes huge trucks, drills, pipes and heavy machinery. A quarry is blasted open, and workers, like another one of my clients, fall in them.

Many different companies, with different rules, different roles and different approaches are manning these hell holes. The natural gas itself is highly combustible and explosions aren’t rare. Workers are exhausted. Frackcidents are guaranteed!

Fracking jobs are brutal. Days start before the sun rises and often end long after it sets. Forest or farmland is leveled and cleared by the workers. Then, heavy pipes weighing well over 100 pounds have to be dragged from work vehicles over rough terrain and connected at the site. Wells are dug deeper and deeper using the massive pipes and drilling equipment. Good water is filled with dangerous chemicals and this toxic combination is thrust through hard shale rock with enough force that the shale is blown out and cleared so the drilling can continue to penetrate deeper.

The companies are supposed to go far below the water table….but nobody is watching. You think that EPA oversight is a regular occurrence at thousands and thousands of fracking sites spread all over the country? Are EPA employees being deployed to go 2 hours into a State Forest to monitor these dangerous operations?  Even if the EPA is there, how are they checking to see that the water tables aren’t being destroyed? How does the EPA know what chemicals are being used since the fracking companies aren’t required to disclose them. To this end, the huge fracking companies successfully lobbied the Bush Administration to exclude the chemicals they mix with water from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Now, as if that’s not enough, doctors in Pennsylvania may be able to find out about the chemicals that are making their patients sick, but they can’t tell their patients what those poisons are. Imagine, the patient doctor privilege is now superceded by the fracking industry!

Thus, as part of the “Great Fracking Triad”, fracking companies in Pennsylvania are: free to tear apart protected state forests; able to refuse to disclose the poison they put into our water; and now, as of last month, they trump full disclosure between doctors and the patients these companies make sick.

Workers are busting their ass for 10-12-14 hours a day. In fact, my client that was injured in the State Forest was run down by the driver of a water pump truck who fell asleep behind the wheel of his stopped truck. The truck driver then awoke in a panic, aware that if they ran out of water at the site, they couldn’t pump the chemicals and fluids into the well and he’d force a shutdown until he could drive all the way down to the stream way down the narrow, rut-filled road and reload his truck with more water for the drilling. When he woke up in a startled panic, he immediately backed up in a hurry, never looked behind him and ran over my client.

But the land that fracking companies ravage isn’t always in the middle of state forests. Local drinking water in populated areas is being tainted and in some cases, becoming flammable.

One of my clients lived on a “Century Farm” that had been in his family for over 120 years. A huge petroleum company was drilling nearby and breached his well. Disgusting, toxic, mud-like water was coming out of his faucets. For many months he and his family had to use water from the huge water drum the company agreed to plop down on his driveway. He was told not to drink that water either…and not to shower in it…but he COULD wash his dishes in it. Huh?

As a frackcident attorney who is focusing on taking on these huge fracking companies, I am poised to be there for the victims of the horrible accidents I have seen already, and the far bigger problems I expect to happen in the future. The government is turning its back to the dangers that are ahead. They are ignoring the chemicals that are being used.

Fracking companies are in the enviable position of being able to make the rules up as they go.

Some fracking supply companies are working on developing better, safer options for the fracking industry, such as food based fracking chemicals instead of the toxic, corrosive chemicals currently in use. Realistically, if these options cost the drilling companies a nickel more, they’ll stay on the cheap, most profitable (collision) course they’re already on. Government must force fracking companies to develop safety procedures. Companies must disclose the chemicals they are using. The EPA and OSHA must aggressively monitor and address these often remote fracking sites. Otherwise, we don’t stand a chance of preserving our precious drinking water and protecting our workers and residents. While the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act was re-introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, it’s unlikely to go anywhere in its current form.

Until we stand up to these huge, wildly profitable companies who are the only ones enjoying this natural gas boom, they will continue to push the envelope, push the workers, force the chemicals in, while converting the good water into bad water.

I guess the CEO’s still have another decade or two before it’s time to apologize to our kids.

~

About Jon Ostroff
Ostroff has received the highest possible rating from other lawyers and judges as a Martindale-Hubbell “AV rated” lawyer. Forbes magazine honored Jon with the New Enterprise Award for his innovations in business and enterprise after he founded Divorce Done Right, which offers families a peaceful and inexpensive alternative way to divorce. Special Master Ken Feinberg and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer honored Jon on behalf of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund for his tireless pro bono (free) representation of those injured and killed in the 9/11 tragedy. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) of Pennsylvania has named Jon an “Honorary Member.”

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One Response to “Marcellus Workplace Injuries on the Rise”

  1. Liz Rosenbaum Says:

    Reblogged this on Keep Tap Water Safe.

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