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August 24, 2001 

Dana Schindler, 231-723-9766
Tanya Cabala, 231-722-5116
Dave Dempsey, 517-487-9539


Emergency Treatment of 41 Victims, Frequent Evacuations Bolster Case Against Directional Drilling under the Great Lakes

    A report compiled by Filer Township supervisor Dana Schindler documents 44 accidental and intentional releases from oil and gas drilling sites and processing facilities in a 30-mile stretch along the Lake Michigan coast since 1980, many of them resulting in severe health problems and emergency hospital treatment, the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) said today.

    The report provides a strong new public health argument against a proposal under consideration by state officials to renew oil and gas drilling under the Great Lakes, MEC said. The group has posted the complete text of the report on its web site:  http://www.mecprotects.org/oilaccidents.pdf

    Compiled by Filer Township Supervisor Dana Schindler, the report refutes claims by state Department of Environmental Quality officials that oil and gas drilling in the Manistee area has been conducted safely and has not harmed human health or livestock in the area.  It details 44 releases involving the release of hydrogen sulfide resulting in the emergency hospital treatment of 41 adults and children and numerous evacuations that have involved more than 100 people at a time, as well as exposure of children at a day care facilities.

        "The Schindler report documents that onshore leaks into the atmosphere from facilities associated with existing sour gas wells under Lake Michigan have negatively impacted human health," says Ron Bauman, a Manistee resident who is fighting the proposal to allow directional drilling. "New wells would also contain dangerous concentrations of highly toxic hydrogen sulfide and would likely impact public health and could harm lake water and the shoreline for an insignificant amount of energy. The probability of a major release into the lake may be small, but the consequences could be huge. The state would be exercising extremely poor stewardship of our environment and public health by authorizing new wells under the Great Lakes that are opposed by a vast majority of Michigan residents."

        The report also documents that DEQ and other state agencies have generally ignored the plight of exposure victims and are not acting on results of recent medical research illustrating the toxic effects of hydrogen sulfide on human health. The report finds that in addition to other health impacts, hydrogen sulfide poisons the brain and can cause irreversible damage as documented by recent medical research.

        Schindler, the author of the report, pointed out that DEQ “readily admits accidental releases will happen. Therefore, the recommendations of the Michigan Environmental Science Board to situate wellheads and facilities 1500 feet from the shoreline in increasingly dense populations places additional families in harm’s way, subjecting them to a known hazard. The small economic gain for a few is not worth forcing hundreds to live under the threat of health hazards and evacuation.”

        Directional wells permitted in the Manistee area, one of the industry's prime targets, are likely to result in additional hydrogen sulfide releases and public health risks in highly populated shoreline areas, MEC said.

         Said Lana Pollack, MEC President: "We urge the Natural Resources Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality to protect human health as well as the Great Lakes ecosystem by rejecting any further directional drilling under the Lakes."

        Tanya Cabala, Michigan director for the Lake Michigan Federation, said, "Although Lake Michigan's superb coastline is a huge draw for new, permanent residents, the state promotes the oil and gas industry instead of protecting the public from dangerous hydrogen sulfide accidents."

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