Triple Divide History Lesson While driving through eastern Ohio yesterday, I stopped for a stroll along the Cayuhoga. In the language of the First Americans, the name meant “crooked river.” For other Americans born centuries later, the name would come to mean “the river that caught on fire from pollution.” The famous Cayuhoga fire of 1969 was blamed on heavy oil slicks, and was one of several that afflicted the river during more than a century of unregulated industrial waste dumping. The image of the river burning has been credited with a surge in the environmental movement and the political support needed to pass the Clean Water Act. Fast-forward to September 2013, as Ohioans turn out in the hundreds to watch different images of rivers threatened and rivers defended—this time in the form of Triple Divide, a documentary about the damage caused by shale gas development.
Fracking can leave an unsightly, uneven, and dangerous trail - altered earth, polluted water, toxic waste, and neighbors with reported health problems ranging from dizziness to death. Jenny Lisak, co-director of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air (PACWA), curates reports of people impacted by shale gas extraction and development in the “List of the Harmed.” The list is ever-growing and gives names, locations, and symptoms as reported by those exposed to the shale gas industry’s negative effects. As of March 20th, 2013 there are 1,123 reported incidents on the “List of the Harmed.” FracTracker, a nonprofit that offers shale gas-related data storage, analyses, and mapping, recently visualized the “List of the Harmed” in an interactive map. “Part of the reason the FracTracker Alliance wanted to map the list is because it helps people understand the geographic distribution of incidents. We find that putting data on a map provides people with an intuitive understanding of impacts that are being felt in their communities in ways that columns and rows of raw data sometimes do not convey,” explains Matt Kelso, Manager of Data and Technology at FracTracker.