I’ve been driving trucks since 1994. In August 2011, I started driving for a small water-hauling outfit in East Freedom, Blair County, PA. Every day was different. Some days I’d carry mud, but most days I’d haul wastewater from fracked wells to treatment plants. They’d lower the Ph and then I’d haul it back to the wells for another frack job. I didn’t know exactly what was in the brine. It was an endless parade of trucks on those back roads. Some nights there would 350 trucks on just for one pad.
On the pads, it was common for them to set up a makeshift containment pit out of sheets of plastic and a pipe frame; kind of like an aboveground pool. This was to hold the wastewater after it flowed back from the well. We’d use our trucks to drain them out and once they were almost empty, part of the job was to get in there and squeegee out all the dirt and mud. Others would spray in hot water and I’d squeegee. The more they spayed and the longer I stayed in the wetter my feet got. It would soak through my boots. Some guys would go in there in their bare feet to avoid getting their boots wet.
We weren’t given MSDS sheets (material safety data sheets) or any training on any of this stuff. They didn’t provide us any specialized equipment or gear because they don’t want to scare the public. The only thing we were required to wear was a flame resistant coat. If the public sees guys in hazmat suits they’re going to start to ask questions. The drilling companies would rather endanger the public and the workers than answer too many questions. We just followed orders. If you asked too many questions, you were labeled a tree-hugger and you were gone. They don’t want any tree-huggers.
Sometimes we’d go in the tanks. They’d use the super sucker to clean them out. In there, you would wear a hardhat and goggles but no mask. In the tank you’d spray hot water to clean out the frack fluid. You couldn’t see but an inch from your nose because of the steam. Eventually all the drivers are going to get sick like I have. It’s all airborne.
I had to stop working in November 2011. I was too sick. I have a hard time breathing and use an inhaler. I get dizzy and my vision is blurred. Sometimes I go into a room and forget why I’m there. I get migraines so bad I can’t think.
This stuff gets into your eyes and ears. My tongue, lips, and limbs all swelled up. I’ve had three teeth snap off. The first two broke while I was eating garlic bread and spaghetti. I have burning rashes all over my body that jump from place to place. My heart acts like a pumping station for this junk and moves it throughout my body. It move up my arm to my chest and then down to my genitals and butt. There were days this past winter when all I could do was lay on the floor in my house with the doors open to cool me down. My skin felt like it was on fire.
The first time I went to an emergency room was straight from a well pad. I showed a supervisor the rash on my chest and he sent me. Since then, I’ve been to the emergency room 10 more times and have seen over 40 specialists in PA and WV. One told me that I had bed bugs. Another said it must be a food allergy. It only took me four months on the gas rigs is get this stuff in me and now no one seems to know how to get it out.
On my best day, I have two good hours and then I’m spent. I’ve got two tractor-trailers sitting at my brother’s place that I’ll never drive again. I can’t go back to driving truck. I tried to get workman’s comp from the company but the judge denied it in 2015. I’m not going to let them get away with it. I’ll appeal.
I’ve heard stories of other guys that have it like I do and have taken their own life. I’m a fighter. That’s how God made me. I go to church 3 times a week. No matter what I’m going through, God is still King and he’ll always be. If He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. I just pray he gives me enough time to see my seven year-old grow up a bit.
- Randy Moyer
Reprinted from Shalefield Stories with permission. Learn more about Randy's story on their site.