Tag Archives: fracking water contamination

  • Fracking Chemicals Interfere with Normal Hormone Functioning

    Endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer detected in water near fracking sites

    Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil trapped in layers of rock deep beneath the surface. This method of drilling employs a toxic potion of chemicals, many of which are known hormone disrupters according to a scientific study that was recently published in The Endocrine Society's journal Endocrinology.

    Endocrine-disrupting chemicals – also known as EDCs – are hazardous chemicals that have the ability to disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system. EDCs may be present in manufactured goods, including certain food products, soil, water and air. Studies have shown that exposure to EDCs can cause cancer, infertility or birth defects.

    Damage Done By Fracking - Credit: Toban B

    “More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” said Susan Nagel, an author of the study based at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, who is concerned that as fracking operations expand, communities may face increasing health risks due to increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting substances.

    The researchers assessed twelve potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in fracking operations, measuring their power to block or mimic the functions of both male and female human reproductive hormones.

    To assess whether fracking operations led to increased endocrine-disrupting activity, the research team analyzed and compared water samples collected from sites in a densely drilled area in Garfield County, CO, containing over 10,000 active gas wells where spills have been reported, to water samples collected from sites in Garfield County, CO and Boone County, MO that are not densely drilled and where no spills have occurred.

    The results of the tests showed that water samples collected from densely drilled sites contained higher concentrations of EDCs that could disrupt hormone functioning in the human body, interfering with how the body responds to androgens – hormones that include testosterone and estrogen, both of which play an essential role in reproduction. EDC levels in water samples collected from drilling sites ranged from moderate to high, while samples collected from the Colorado River – which is essentially the drainage basin of the fracking sites – contained moderate levels of EDC activity. By comparison, samples collected from sites with low drilling activity contained low levels of EDC activity.

    Most concerning, is the fact that spills which occur during natural gas drilling operations can contaminate water resources, including surface water, groundwater and drinking water sources, yet fracking is exempt from federal regulations that protect water quality. “We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites. This could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to EDCs,” cautions Nagel.

    The study, “Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region”, was published online, ahead of print.

    Journal Reference:

    Christopher D. Kassotis, Donald E. Tillitt, J. Wade Davis, Annette M. Hormann, and Susan C. Nagel. Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region. Endocrinology, December 2013.

  • Stray Gases Detected in Drinking Water Near Fracking Sites

    Residents living within a kilometer of shale gas sites face a high risk of having their drinking water contaminated by stray gases, according to a new study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    While shale gas is increasingly becoming an important source of U.S. natural gas, the method of extractions – using a process of drilling horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing – remains controversial due to the uncertain impact of this technique on the environment and to human health.

    Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as hydrofracking or simply fracking, involves pumping water mixed with sand and a variety of toxic chemicals into horizontal underground gas wells at high pressure to form fissures in the shale to release natural gas stored in pockets within the rock. The rapid expansion of fracking operations in the Marcellus shale region has fueled considerable debate and concern over the possibility of contamination of drinking water sources by both the chemicals used in fracking operations and the gases released.

    fracking schematic

    Expanding on their earlier study, which surveyed private drinking water wells situated near fracking operations in the Marcellus shale regions of New York and Pennsylvania for contamination with methane, this study, conducted by a team of researchers from Duke University, surveyed a further 141 drinking water wells, testing for ethane and propane in addition to methane gas. While none of the studies conducted by this research team have revealed evidence of contamination by chemicals used in fracking fluids, the results from the recent study showed that not only were concentrations of methane gas higher in wells situated within a kilometer of shale gas wells, but ethane and propane concentrations were higher too.  According to the study, concentrations of methane were six time greater at water wells within a kilometer of shale gas operations, while ethane concentrations were as much as 23 times greater. Propane gas was found in drinking water from 10 wells situated within a kilometer of shale drilling operations.

    “The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium isotopes, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners' water,” said Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. “In a minority of cases, the gas even looks Marcellus-like, probably caused by faulty well construction.”

    The ethane and propane contamination data are “new and hard to refute,” Jackson stressed. “There is no biological source of ethane and propane in the region and Marcellus gas is high in both, and higher in concentration than the Upper Devonian gas found in-between.”

    The researchers looked at a number of factors that might have affected the results, including topography, distance from geological formations or features, and distance from gas wells. According to Jackson, “Distance to gas wells was, by far, the most significant factor influencing gases in the drinking water we sampled.”

    “Our studies demonstrate that distances from drilling sites, as well as variations in local and regional geology, play major roles in determining the possible risk of groundwater impacts from shale gas development,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School. “As such, they must be taken into consideration before drilling begins.”

    For homeowners situated near gas well sites who are concerned that their drinking water may be contaminated, it is recommended that drinking water is filtered with a top of the range drinking water filter to remove any volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals or toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to your family's health.

    Journal Reference

    Robert Jackson, Avner Vengosh, Thomas Darrah, Nathaniel Warner, Adrian Down, Robert Poreda, Stephen Osborn, Kaiguang Zhao, Jonathan Karr. Increased Stray Gas Abundance in a Subset of Drinking Water Wells Near Marcellus Shale Gas ExtractionProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Online week of June 24, 2013.

  • Fracking: How Drinking Water Is Being Contaminated

    Fracking continues to be a highly controversial subject. On the one hand we need energy, and the abundant resource of natural gas right on our doorstep burns cleaner than fossil fuels, provides a far cheaper alternative to imported oil, and offers an excellent opportunity to be self-sufficient. But at what expense?

    Shale gas is found locked within the deposits of shale formations. The Marcellus Shale formation, is an exceptionally large shale bed that stretches between New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, and is of particular interest to gas exploration companies due to the deep and even more extensive layer of shale that lies beneath it. However, environmental groups and concerned citizens are strongly opposed to fracking in the area due to concerns that groundwater could become tainted by chemicals and the methane gas itself. Their strong opposition won them a temporary reprieve with a one year moratorium on fracking in the area, however this has recently expired and now they are seeking to place a ban on the disposal of fracking waste in the area.

    The Process OF  Hydro Fracking

    The Upper Delaware River, recognized as America's most endangered river in 2010 by the NGO American Rivers, is one of many rivers in the country that are threatened by the environmental impact of hydro-fracking. It is feared that the methods used to extract gas using hydro-fracturing techniques have the potential to introduce toxic chemicals into the river and groundwater. The Delaware River supplies drinking water to more than 15.6 million US citizens, and there are concerns that fracking could contaminate the water supply putting the health of people dependent on this water source at risk.

    Water Contamination As A Result

    Hydro-fracking is a process of extracting natural gas trapped within fissures and pockets within rock (shale) formations. This process involves pumping a toxic brew of chemicals mixed with water and sand, into the ground at an extremely high pressure, which then fractures the underground fissures, forcing the gas trapped within to the surface.
    Millions of gallons of this toxic brew are pumped into these gas wells to extract the gas, and the concern is that this chemical laden concoction can only be bad for the environment and human health. Energy companies are not required to divulge what chemicals they use, because the chemicals used by individual gas companies during the exploration process is considered a trade secret, despite the dangers. Furthermore, heavy metals and other toxic substances that occur naturally within rock and sediments, including lead, arsenic, benzene, mercury, radium, chromium, strontium, barium, and m,p-Xylene, can be forced out during this process to contaminate the surrounding soil and nearby water sources. The potential impact on the natural environment and on human health and safety is significant, yet citizens are completely oblivious as to what chemicals their water may be contaminated with, or what they are being exposed to.

    Hydro Fracking

     

    Another concern is that methane gas that is forced through fissures in the rock can also make its way into groundwater systems, rivers, or private wells. Explosions have occurred, and as we've reported in the past, some water sources have such a high gas content that they can literally be set on fire! Levels of methane gas in water are not currently monitored, and there is little information on the health risks associated with consuming water that is tainted with methane.

    The Leftover Fracking Sludge

    According to the EPA, up to five million gallons of water can be used in a single horizontal gas well during the hydro-fracking process. This contaminated water and sludge has to go somewhere. While gas companies are supposed to ensure that their fracking waste is treated responsibly, environmental groups and local residents are concerned that there isn't sufficient facilities to cope with the amount of waste water and solids. New Jersey residents are particularly uneasy following their experiences with Hurricane Sandy, where sewage treatment facilities overflowed, contaminating local waterways and groundwater. If these waste treatment plants were treating fracking waste at the time, the consequences could have been devastating.

    If you live in an area where fracking is taking place and have no idea what you and your family are being exposed to, we recommend taking precautions to protect your health by filtering your drinking water with a good quality home water filter to remove any toxic chemicals, heavy metals and VOCs that may be present.

  • 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.

  • Fracking Our Drinking Water

    In 31 U.S. states, the natural gas industry employs a controversial drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting chemical-laden water deep underground to fracture the bedrock and release natural gas trapped beneath. The process is largely unregulated by the states and this fracking debate has been heating up for years as a result. In 2005, President George W. Bush signed an energy bill that exempted natural gas drilling from the requirements of The Safe Drinking Water Act.

    For an entertaining overview of the issue, take a look at this video from Studio 20 NYU and ProPublica:


    EPA to Look at Fracking Impact on Drinking Water, Regulate Wastewater

    Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a few long-awaited details about its study of the drinking water implications of fracking.

    "The new EPA study will look at the entire water lifecycle of hydraulic fracturing in shale deposits, beginning with the industry's withdrawal of huge volumes of water from rivers and streams and ending with the treatment and disposal of the tainted wastewater that comes back out of the wells after fracking. Researchers will also study well design and the impact of surface spills of fracking fluids on groundwater," reports the Associated Press.

    EPA also began the process of regulating wastewater from fracking operations, which in many cases is stored on site it large lagoons and in others runs off into rivers or is pumped through municipal wastewater treatment, which may not be equipped to deal with drilling contaminants.

    The regulatory process is likely to take years and complete results of the study won't be ready until 2014.

    Fracking Contaminates Drinking Water

    In the mean time, communities around the country are accusing gas companies of contaminating well water with solvents, chemicals, and escaped natural gas. In the case of Dimrock, Pennsylvania, a company has been providing bottled water to residents since January 2009 because of widespread well contamination in the community linked to drilling. In another case, a house outside Cleveland Ohio exploded when methane seeped into the house through the plumbing.

    You may have seen this clip from the move Gasland:


    The industry claims their operations are safe, "[b]ut a string of documented cases of gas escaping into drinking water -- not just in Pennsylvania but across North America -- is raising new concerns about the hidden costs of this economic tide and strengthening arguments across the country that drilling can put drinking water at risk," reports ProPublica, an independent journalism organization.

    Secret Fracking Fluid Formula Obscures the Risk

    The industry has long claimed that the exact composition of the solvents injected into the ground to extract gas is a matter of trade secret. In order to study whether fracking fluid is contaminating well water, the EPA was forced to subpoena the ingredient lists from companies so they'd know what chemicals to test for.

    In 2010, two companies admitted to a committee before the U.S. Congress that diesel fuel is among the ingredients in their fluids A report to Congress in April 2011 revealed more than 750 chemicals are involved, including several that Berkey Filters can remove below detectable levels.

  • New Jersey On Track To Be First State to Ban Fracking

    This Wednesday, June 29th, the NJ state legislator passed a bill that would ban fracking across the state. While many states and citizens have been fighting this gas drilling practice for some years now, NJ is on track to be the first state that would ban it outright.

    new-jersey

    Senator Bob Gordon says it best “Today, New Jersey sent a strong message to surrounding states and to the nation that a ban on fracking is necessary to protect public health and preserve our natural resources. Any benefits of gas production simply do not justify the many potential dangers associated with fracking such as pollution of our lakes, streams and drinking water supplies and the release of airborne pollutants. We should not wait until our natural resources are threatened or destroyed to act. The time to ban fracking in New Jersey is now.”

    Opponents to fracking are heralding this as a tide turning move that will hopefully accelerate a clamp down on an industry that has been putting natural gas profits first and environmental impacts second. This is assuming NJ governer Chris Christie signs the bill into law, which is where it now lies.

    Mind you, the energy companies are still yet to be required to disclose the chemicals contained in the fracking fluid they use for drilling. They claim it as a trade secret and thus are protected from providing any details. And let's not forget the small issue about these energy companies being exempt from seven major federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act.  As they say, one step at a time, and this is shaping up to be one powerful step for controlling the practice of fracking and thus protecting our waterways and environment from the pollution that this practice causes.


  • 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.

  • 60 Minutes On The Dangers Of Fracking

    This past Sunday, 60 minutes ran a news piece on the controversial practice of fracking. Fracking is a process that results in the fracturing of rock to gain access to natural gas and oil. We've reported in the past that this practice has resulted in incidents of water contamination across the country. Chemicals that are used for fracking seep into and contaminate water supplies, and natural gas leaks into water aquifers causing a phenomenon called "Tap Water Catching on Fire". Watch the piece below to learn more.

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