a concern, an assignment,
a student learns the horrifying truth about fracking...
As I researched this topic of "fracking," I found myself deeply saddened for the violations put upon our Earth. The term 'rape' seemed most fitting and so the title was borne.
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a method of drilling into shale deposits in the earth to obtain natural gas. It has grown in popularity and has become a very profitable industry as the need for fossil fuel is high. Although, it can be seen as economically beneficial, it appears to be having a more harmful effect, on such greater issues concerning our health and the environment. Controversy over this issue and its government regulations persist, as more and more people address and face the ill effects of this practice.The immediate and long term consequences have been overlooked in the name of profit. This is a major issue that poses great dangers to our well-being as residents of earth. All consequences of fracking must be taken into consideration when plans or projects are put forth.
The process of fracking involves the drilling of wells deep down into shale formations.
According to an organization called the Food and Water Watch, it “involves the injection of more than a million gallons of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure down and across into horizontally drilled wells as far as 10,000 feet below the surface.The pressurized mixture causes the rock layer, in this case the Marcellus Shale, to crack.” (Not So Fast, Natural Gas 2).
The cracks allow for the gas to flow up into the wells. The fracking process can be carried out vertically or horizontally. The horizontal method is most common and can reach into more fractures and extract more gas. As stated above, this process requires chemicals which is where much of the concern lies.
The United States House of representatives state: “While most underground injections of chemicals are subject to the protections of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congress in 2005 modified the law to exclude “the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities” from the Act’s protections. Unless oil and gas service companies use diesel in the hydraulic fracturing process, the permanent underground injection of chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
This is of particular concern, given the long range ill effects of toxic chemicals within the layers of the Earth. The statement above reveals that the chemicals used in the process are exempt from regulation, meaning that the gas and oil companies can be injecting anything into our earth. This example is part of a report by the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Minority Staff published in April 2011, on the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing between the year 2005 and 2009 (2). The study found 750 chemicals and other components used. They found 29 toxic chemicals that are known human carcinogens, regulated under the SDWA for their risks to human health and listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. These 29 chemicals were found in more than 650 products used in fracking. It is also stated that many of the oil and gas companies were unable to provide the Committee with a full chemical make up of the hydraulic fracturing fluids they used in which they deemed as “propriety” or a trade secret. Although, some were able to provide this information others did not even have the capability to access it and so some companies are injecting fluids they themselves are unable to identify. This is certainly not a practice that serves the well being of our Earth or humanity. Another point to consider is the natural gas itself. The natural gas that is acquired is largely composed of methane. As stated in the journal, Climatic Change, methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential that is far greater than that of carbon dioxide.
As one considers the testimony of individuals and families and the devastation brought to their properties as well as unanticipated economic loss, one needs to access benefit versus destruction.
According to a report posted on December 15, 2011, by Alter-Net, "Last week, more than a hundred activists from Pennsylvania and New York, including actor Mark Ruffalo, brought thousands of gallons of drinking water to 11 families in Dimock, Pa., who had been left dry after Cabot Oil and Gas stopped their water deliveries . . . At issue was the safety of well water symbolized by a jug filled with brown fluid taken from Dimock resident Scott Ely's well . . . Paul Rubin, a hydrogeologist, painted a grim picture, laying out a future of continued water contamination. The Ely water had arsenic, manganese, aluminum, iron, and lead at several times the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for safe drinking water."(Air Too Dangerous to Breathe: How Gas Drilling Can Turn Rural Communities Into Industrial Wastelands, Nina Berman).
It is obvious that brown drinking water is not a good thing nor the chemicals contained in it. This is just not tolerable. According to the BBC News, Lancashire, How Fracking affects a community in Pennsylvania, Peter Marshall states: "I asked one woman: "What's fracking doing to this community?" "Raping it," was her stark reply. "Tearing our roads apart - not to mention what it's doing to the countryside. Have you seen it? I had. Huge clearings cut through hillside forests to allow for pipelines - well pads dotted around the landscape. And traffic. So much traffic."
Depicted above is the destruction of communities. Fracking is destroying peoples home land. Not only is our health at risk but the earth’s sacred body is being compromised. Adverse health consequences to fracking have been claimed by residents where fracking has taken place. "Hair dresser Crystal Stroud claimed that within days of drilling starting near her home her hair started falling out and she became seriously ill" (BBC News, Peter Marshall).
The difficulties faced by many people are not easily or immediately resolved. Many have legal claims against these oil and gas companies for these side effects. It has been further reported that: "Many of these legal cases have lagged on for years, leaving residents dependent on bottled drinking water and "good neighbor" gestures by drilling companies that deny blame but temporarily supply water, until they decide to stop as Cabot did in Dimock." (Air Too Dangerous to Breathe: How Gas Drilling Can Turn Rural Communities Into Industrial Wastelands, Nina Berman).
Here, one can see that the correlation of the contaminated water and the fracking is undeniable. Companies actually have water shipped to the home and yet continue to deny the fracking is of any cause. Something sure smells fishy. According to the article, EPA:Fracking May Cause Ground Water Pollution: "... The EPA's found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. Health officials last year advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found low levels hydrocarbons in their wells.." (Mead Gruver) Residents were encouraged by this report. Another statement from this report: "Environmentalists welcomed the news of the EPA report, calling it an important turning point in the fracking debate.."
Finally, there is solid evidence to prove the harm of fracking and nonetheless coming from the environmental protection agency. The devastation of fracking is believed to not only have dire consequences for the immediate areas where fracking takes place, but may be responsible for creating the onset of earthquakes. An earth quake of 5.8 magnitude shook people up and down the east coast in Virginia, and many believe that the recent rise in fracking is the culprit (Fracking Could Have Caused East Coast Earthquake, Scott Olsen).
“The odds of a quake exceeding a magnitude of 5.5 occurring in central Virginia are so slim that Dominion Power determined only around six quakes of that size would occur in the area over the next 10,000 years.” (Fracking Could Have Caused East Coast Earthquake, Scott Olsen).
There have been a sudden swarm of earthquakes in Arkansas, where there has been an increase in fracking also. Geologists don’t believe fracking to be the cause but Steve Horton, an earthquake specialist at the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information, is worried by a correlation of the earthquake swarm and a side effect of the drilling.
“Mayor Ted Reynolds said. "We haven't had a quake in recorded history, and all the sudden you drill and there are earthquakes."(Earthquakes in Arkansas May Be Man-Made, Experts Warn, Alec Liu).
It is clear that there is a pattern staring to form here in regards to fracking and it’s effects. These troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, and industrial disasters and explosions are ubiquitous and growing as fracking spreads. Below is a map charting out fracking areas around America. It charts out what is described as as “Fraccidents”, meaning accidents correlated to fracking.
As depicted in the map, one is able to get an idea about how widespread this process is and can identify the effected areas. Many are becoming aware of this important issue and beginning to take action.
Here is the haiku of Mark Ruffalo, an oscar-nominated actor who is fighting to protect water.
Make it known that you are here
Stand for your water!
Come out and speak up
Water is under attack
The fish and frogs watch.
He who hesitates is lost
The stream is dying”
( Mark Ruffalo: Why I Fight Against Fracking)
A very powerful call to bring awareness to this serious cause is presented in these lines. The power lies in the people and so it urges one to take a stand for what matters.
When considering both the formal testimonies of those involved in the environmental sciences, and the direct experiences of those personally suffering the ills of what fracking has brought to their communities, it seems that the most reasonable position regulatory and governmental agencies are to take, would include a moratorium on any further fracking. There may be other means by which to access our natural resources without bringing both harm to the Earth and consequences of illness to people. I appreciate the need for natural gas, yet cannot accept the notion that we are to further destroy our Earth and put our water supply and all of life at risk.
waters of this earth
a Libation sweet
honored they shall ever be
the streams, the rivers, the oceans, the seas
the fields that yield by its grace
to all life its flow we trace
hold to the purity that Creation gives
contaminate not by false truths we live
contaminate not by false truths we live.
Rose Marie Raccioppi
Orangetown, New York
and so it is...
Children care... let us take responsible action... put a STOP to fracking...
Fracking’s Toll on Pets, Livestock Chills Farmers: Commentary
Smelling gas one morning, a southern Pennsylvania farmer almost passed out when he went outside to check on his bellowing cows.
One of the animals did keel over, kicking its feet in spasms. A couple of days later, a calf was fighting for its life, the farmer said. It died.
Something awful is happening over the Marcellus Shale, the vast geological formation in eastern North America where energy companies are looking for natural gas.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process for extracting gas by injecting high volumes of water and chemicals into deep wells, has sparked complaints about ruined landscapes and fouled groundwater. Increasingly there is evidence, mostly anecdotal, that animals are suffering.
A new study by veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald, a professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University, chronicles case studies of dozens of farmers and pet owners in six states over the Marcellus Shale.
Their findings, published in “New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,” are a harrowing account of sudden deaths of cattle, as well as reproductive and neurological problems in horses, cats, dogs and other animals.
The Pennsylvania farmers I spoke with have lost cows, calves, a horse, a couple dozen chickens. Many of the animals succumb in the same way: seizure-like symptoms, gasping for breath and a quick wasting away. A Rottweiler and a Dalmatian also fell ill and died.
These farmers are getting out of the beef business, in part over concern that their animals will become delivery systems for contaminants.
An organic farmer from southeast Ohio told me he has abandoned his cash crop, ginseng, for now, concerned that contaminants would enter his product. He began noticing changes around his 20-acre property in 2007, when a fracking operation began dumping wastewater nearby. He lost quite a few deer that were drawn to the brine and antifreeze in the fluid.
Energy representatives dismiss the veterinarians’ study. They say that health indicators have actually improved in areas with shale development.
“The paper is little more than a collection of personal testimonials that cannot be independently assessed or verified,” says Steve Everley, a spokesman for industry group Energy in Depth. “The paper is full of bold assertions about oil and gas development, but empty of any facts or scientific evidence to support those opinions.”
Establishing a causal link between fracking and specific health threats is tricky. Energy companies are not required to disclose the composition of fracking fluids for proprietary reasons, so they don’t.
Like a lot of people who live near fracking operations, many of the farmers I interviewed are in litigation with an energy company and wish to remain anonymous.
“We don’t know what the chemicals are in a lot of these cases,” says Bamberger. “It gets very frustrating when you start saying: What was in the tissue? What killed these animals exactly?”
In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture quarantined 28 head of cattle after they drank wastewater from a fracking site in Tioga County. The fear was that a radioactive contaminant in the water, strontium, would end up in beef.
In December 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency linked water pollution to fracking for the first time, after examining contaminated water in central Wyoming.
Note to New York
Last month the federal agency announced it would test water in dozens of homes around Dimock, Pennsylvania, a hotbed of fracking activity. It also told New York it would need to improve safeguards for drinking water before tapping into the Marcellus Shale.
New York placed a moratorium on fracking in 2010 so it could revise the rules governing the practice. Bamberger and Oswald are among those who contributed to the tens of thousands of public comments on the draft regulations, which were closed last month.
Bamberger submitted the published study; Oswald contributed 15 pages of his own to denounce the inadequacy of the proposed rules.
“There are so many flaws in the document,” he says. “It is unlikely to be able to protect us from the industrialization of our landscape and hydraulic fracturing.”
Now, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation will review comments and revise regulations as necessary. It seems inevitable that the state will be fracking eventually, so the question is whether the industry can proceed safely -- for humans and animals.
New Yorkers should listen to the stories of farmers, hunters and vets before making the same fracking mistakes that are being made elsewhere.
(Mike Di Paola writes on preservation and the environment for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Mike Di Paola at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff in New York at email@example.com.