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Tag Archives: fracking contamination

  • Government Agency Officially Links Fracking to Water Contamination

    Drilling for natural gas by pumping a slurry of sand, water, and chemicals deep into the ground to crack the bedrock, a process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking", has been officially linked to groundwater contamination according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report issued December 8th.

    EPA: Hydraulic Fracturing Caused Drinking Well Contamination

    EPA found at least 10 compounds known to be used in fracking fluids in test wells they drilled near the town of Pavilion Wyoming. While the drilling company EnCana contested preliminary data release two weeks ago, saying that contamination of local wells was from naturally occurring sources, EPA ruled out that among alternative explanations: "The presence of synthetic compounds such as glycol ethers … and the assortment of other organic components is explained as the result of direct mixing of hydraulic fracturing fluids with ground water in the Pavillion gas field,” the draft report states.

    Fracking Report Based on Years of Research and Tests

    EPA first found traces of contaminates in drinking water wells around Pavillion in 2008. After additional testing in 2010, EPA warned residents not to drink their water and to ventilate their homes when bathing and showering, to prevent explosions from the methane seeping into wells. Their draft report on all the tests and analysis to date concluded that the contamination was caused by both the fracking process itself and by leaking pools of fracking waste.

    "...the EPA said that pollution from 33 abandoned oil and gas waste pits – which are the subject of a separate cleanup program – are indeed responsible for some degree of shallow groundwater pollution in the area. Those pits may be the source of contamination affecting at least 42 private water wells in Pavillion. But the pits could not be blamed for contamination detected in the water monitoring wells 1,000 feet underground.

    "That contamination, the agency concluded, had to have been caused by fracking," reported Propublica

    EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Report Contradicts Company Rhetoric on Safety

    The report directly countered many arguments by drilling companies about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, including:

    1. that pressure from fracking forces fluids down, not up
    2. that the geologic layers are watertight and no chemicals can migrate toward the surface
    3. that fracking did not cause the problems with cement and steel barriers on gas wells that may have allowed methane to escape into residential wells.

    One of the scariest things for residents near fracking operations is not knowing what chemicals might be in their water. As we've discussed in previous posts, gas companies are very secretive about what lubricants and chemicals they are using in tracking fluids.

    EPA Fracking Report May Tip the Debate on Gas Drilling Safety

    Opponents to fracking are declaring the report to be a smoking gun that will tip the debate on fracking safety. But proponents say not so fast: EPA did not go so far as to conclude that fracking in other parts of the United States had or could cause similar contamination. The hydrology, geology and drilling practices examined are unique to the area and EPA only extended their conclusions to the area surrounding Pavillion, Wyoming.

  • The Fracking Debate Heats Up On The Colbert Report

    As the fracking debate continues to heat up, we are seeing each side ramp up lobbying for public support. Supporting fracking, on June 9th, 2011 Tom Ridge was on the Colbert Report in an obvious PR move to calm the recent groundswell of bad press. If you're knowledgeable about the matter of fracking, you'll be surprised by some of Tom's very matter of fact statements implying that the whole concern of fracking is no more dangerous than the boogie man. In response to one of Steve Colbert's questions regarding methane gas getting into homeowners tap water he replies, "it is just naturally occurring, and occurs all over the country". Someone should remind Mr. Ridge that it's only been a little over a month since the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined the Chesapeake energy company for contaminating wells,... in the state the Tom Ridge was once governor of. Steve Colbert raises some good questions, but you can't help but think while watching that Tom Ridge is either just missing the points, or purposefully ignoring them. Interview below.

    On the other side of the issue we have an activist organization by the name of foodandwaterwatch.org. Besides trying to make the population more aware of the dangers of fracking, they support regulating fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act. A video recently released by them can be found below:

    We've stated time and again that a energy policy shift for the globe is more than apparent. However, any energy policy that puts our environment at risk and places profits above regulation cannot be supported. We've made this mistake too many times. The dangers of fracking are numerous and need to be placed on hold if companies cannot be ethically and environmentally responsible in their pursuit or natural gas extraction.

  • Earthquakes Potentially Caused by Natural Gas Fracking

    News agencies are reporting this week that fracking for natural gas has been halted in the area of Blackpool, England after a second small earthquake was reported by the British Geological Survey. On it's website, the BGS states "The timing of the two events in conjunction with the fluid injection suggests that they may be related." These earthquakes were apparently measured in an area where tremors are rare and ultimately resulted in many pointing the fingers directly at a small natural gas company that had undertaken fracking in the region.

    The natural gas boom has been underway in the US for the past 5 years and is now taking shape in Europe with many of the same alarms being raised by British citizens and European environmental groups alike. Earthquake links to fracking is not entirely new and has been claimed here in the US in states such as Arkansas and Texas. However, the oil and gas industry does not believe that fracking, nor the injection of wastewater into natural gas wells, is the cause of these small tremors. The Arkansas Gas Commission is still investigating the matter in Arkansas and recently stated “We see no correlation” between the drilling and fracking and the earthquake activity. AGS director Bekki White said in a telephone interview Wednesday, “As far as whether it is related to injection of fluids, we still have not determined whether it is or whether it is naturally occurring.”

    This has not prevented local Arkansas residents from filing class action lawsuits against BHP and Clarita; natural gas companies operating in the region. Beyond the claim that shale fracking has caused small earthquakes, these residents also believe these operations have poisoned water sources and resulted in other forms of pollution. Just last week the Chesapeake Energy Company was fined by the Department of Environmental Protection for similar resident's claims in Pennsylvania, so it remains to be seen what officials find in Arkansas.

    Regardless, the possibility of earthquakes adds a whole new dimension to the safety of fracking for natural gas. Since fracking began, complaints have been sounded by various organizations and citizens across the political and environmental spectrum. These concerns seems to be growing and we'll keep an eye on new developments.

  • Chesapeake Energy Company Fined in Drinking Water Contamination

    In a very notable decision, the Department of Environmental Protection of Pennsylvania has fined the Chesapeake Energy Corp. 1.1 million for contaminating the water supplies of local residents. The state agency said that throughout 2010 it investigated complaints of methane contamination in the drinking water of several residential water wells in northeastern PA. Some of this methane contamination, also referred to virally on the web as "tap water catching on fire", could be seen in the HBO documentary Gasland, and reaffirms many of the concerns brought about by the film. Upon DEP conclusion it was determined that the drinking water contamination had been caused by natural gas drilling and that "improper well casing and cementing in shallow zones" allowed gas from deep basins to seep into drinking water aquifers.

    "The water well contamination fine is the largest single penalty DEP has ever assessed against an oil and gas operator, and the Avella tank fire penalty is the highest we could assess under the Oil and Gas Act," said Mike Krancer, who heads the state agency. "Our message to drillers and to the public is clear."

    This is a step in the right direction and it seems that the public's outcry for caution due to water contamination from fracking is being heeded by state officials and more importantly the organization that is designed to protect our environment from careless resource removal.

    Chesapeake has stated that they are accepting the fine and are making a concerted effort towards improving the raised issues. This is left to be seen, but they are officially on notice,... as are the other companies that are engaged in the practice of fracking as quickly as possible in this gas-land-grab.

    The gas industry's wobbly position was brought to the forefront of discussion recently when in April a well blow-out during Chesapeake's well completion operations in Pennsylvania, saw several thousand gallons of drilling fluid escape into local waterways. These sorts of "mishaps" not only threaten to contaminate our own drinking water, but also destroy existence of any animal, fish, and plant life in the affected and surrounding regions.

    The Pennsylvania DEP's decision helps confirm a trend in which individual US states are taking a less lenient stance towards shale gas drilling and its potential health and environmental effects. We've seen this in NY as the battle between environmentalists/homeowners and natural gas companies continues to heat up with drilling bans in place. However, concerns over water supply contamination seem to be based on variables other than some would agree with. Currently, there seems to be a thought that contamination is a result of inadequate well casing and cementing. In reality it is the chemical substances used for the fracking that cause the drinking water contamination. This fracking soup of chemicals are known to be very toxic and environmentalists are concerned that the eye may be taken off the ball if the focus is simply on the casing/cementing. Obviously better insulation of these chemicals from the environment is a move in the right direction, but both issues need to be addressed fully.

  • Why is Tap Water Catching On Fire Becoming More Common?

    Good stewardship and being a good neighbor used to be values that everyone admired. There was once widespread concern about what we would reap if we caused harm to innocents. People regulated their behavior in fear of consequences.

    Today, those lines seem to have blurred and consequences are far and few in between. Type the words ‘tap water fire’ into your favorite search engine and nearly 400 links to videos will appear. Across the United States it's becoming more common for homeowners to watch fire erupt from their tap as the water is exposed to open flame. This is a by-product of the practice of fracking whereas natural gas is now seeping into resident's drinking water wells.

    In response to this "tap water fire", various factions are engaging in energetic finger pointing. This isn’t surprising. A few years after we purchased our home we witnessed a similar event. Less than 5 miles from us, fish were found floating dead in homeowners’ ponds. The ensuing investigation found that a chemical dump had occurred. A nearby manufacturing plant denied that they had anything to do with the mishap and publicly stated that all their chemicals were non-toxic and biodegradable. Apparently, no one told the fish.

    The corporation went bankrupt, paid a relatively small fine and went away. The local government paid off the lawyers and investigators, complimented themselves on a job well done and financed the cleanup with taxes. People that had worked a lifetime to pay for their home now had property that no one else wanted and higher taxes. No studies were done to determine the long-term health effects on residents, the safety of local ponds for swimming, or whether locally harvested fish and produce were safe to eat.

    For all of the posturing and outrage, corporations are still able to legally endanger public health and spoil clean water sources with methods such as high volume hydraulic earth fracturing, also known as fracking. Used to help extract natural gas reserves, this drilling method fractures rock deep within the earth using thousands of gallons of pressurized water and toxic chemicals. It's starting to gain national attention with the help of a recent documentary called Gasland that aired this summer on HBO.  It focused on the environmental and health consequences of natural gas drilling and painted a dire picture highlighting the severity of the problem.

    Fracking results in contaminated waste, and often results in gas finding its way into the drinking water of nearby landowners. While there is much discussion, little of it is regarding how to help restore what has been lost. Investigative reporters are given awards and politicians issue sound bites while landowners are left to deal with the resulting aftermath.

    The few champions who stand against these important issues are often muted by corporate media campaigns. Public opinion seems easily swayed by bumper stickers and t-shirt slogans. When did we begin to require a political affiliation or activist group to tell us what to think about industrial practices that dirty the water and endanger public health? This phenomenon of fracking contamination is increasing and the public should be aware of the consequences and potential risks to their drinking water.

    For these reasons, I see the safety of my family’s drinking water as a personal responsibility and not something I can afford to entrust to the safekeeping of others. If I want to be SURE I’m not serving my family dangerous toxins in their glass of water, I need to take the time to filter the water that comes out of my faucet.

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