Mtn. Ridge students to give fracking report at FSU

Mountain Ridge High School student Jose Cisernos gathers a water sample at the Frostburg Water Treatment Plant in February as part of his environmental science class prefracking water quality baseline project. The samples are sent to Summit Labs in Ohio to be analyzed for barium, strontium, bromide and other substances.

Cumberland Times-News

FROSTBURG — Students in Tom Kozikowski’s environmental science classes at Mountain Ridge High School will give a presentation April 17 at noon in Frostburg State University’s Lane Center as part of the Focus Frostburg event.

The students will report the results of their prefracking baseline water quality data from the drinking water supply of Frostburg and surrounding areas.  

With the recent support of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, FSU and the FSU Foundation, the students have had more than $69,000 in grant money to conduct their research in an effort to supply reliable and unbiased information so that rational decisions can be made regarding hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.  

The nearest proposed fracking site is one-half mile uphill from the Frostburg reservoir, and two tributaries to the reservoir originate in Pennsylvania, a state where fracking is frequently permitted. When started more than a year ago, this pilot effort was the first of any government organization, community group or university in the state of Maryland to initiate fracking-related baseline testing on local waters.  

Maryland is still under an unofficial moratorium preventing fracking; however, all moratorium and ban bills on fracking were recently denied in the Maryland General Assembly.   

Mountain Ridge’s 107 participating students have been collecting water samples on a monthly basis since February 2012 and will continue to do so for several years beyond the start of fracking in order to have data before, during and after it begins.  Looking for changes in bromide, barium, strontium, total dissolved solids and several other key fracking-related water quality parameters is the focus.

The presentation will provide a summary of key findings gathered to this point and provide comparisons of current chemical levels to chemical levels in frack fluid.

The students recently traveled to Salem, Ohio, where gas drilling is commonplace. The group interviewed many local residents. “It is one thing to hear media interviews from an industry employee or hysterical citizen after an accident,” Kozikowski said. “An entirely different perspective is gained when everyday people are interviewed on the street. We hope to share this unique perspective with those who attend our presentation.”

The findings from this field trip as well as from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Government Accountability Office, and other published scientific reports will be included in the April 17 presentation.

To visit the project website, go to www.statefarmyab. com/ projects and click on the circle over Western Maryland.

The students have been assisted by Mike Griffith of the Frostburg Water Treatment Plant, Michael Kashiwagi of the Maryland DNR, Dan Soeder of the U.S. Department of Energy, Johan Schijf and Keith Eshleman of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Matt Baker of the USGS.

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