Fracking is the process of injecting sand, water, and chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release gases trapped within the shale. Those additives include poisons intended to kill any microbial life within the shale. It causes health problems for residents and environmental contamination of land, water, and air. Fracking is exempt from both the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, thanks to the so-called “Halliburton Loophole” so there is no accountability for poisoning our health or the land, water, and air.
Fracking changes millions and millions of gallons of clean water into unusable, highly polluted, and toxic water. The amount of clean water turned into unusable, toxic water varies at each well site, but an most use upwards of 7M gallons per well.
Waste water comes back up from the well and has to be disposed of, either by injecting it back underground or dumping it into open pits exposed to the elements. A third solution, pump it into storage tanks and shipping it to a site to be cleaned, is considered too costly by the industry. In fact, there are no waste water treatment plants in Virginia that can clean the water and make it safe for release back into the environment.
Open pits are used to store toxic fracking wastewater, without much regulation. Ponds are often not lined, so waste water can leach into the ground. The air above those pits is not tested so pollutants are breathed in by nearby residents, increasing cancers, breathing disorders, and childbirth problems. Mosquitoes need to be controlled by pesticides. Wildlife can mistakenly land in the water and die. Odors from the pits are blown with the winds.
Injection wells have been linked to increased number and severity of earthquakes. Just take a look at Colorado’s incredible increase in earthquakes as fracking took off.
The exact make-up of the chemicals used in the process are kept hidden by industry, under the concept of “proprietary” materials. There is no legal requirement to disclose them. A voluntary, not mandatory, industry website, FracFocus, lists some but not all of the chemicals used. This means that if there is a disaster, our first-responders have to deal with the problem without knowing exactly what it is, and without any training in handling the problems.
The Taylorsville Basin sits below the Potomac Aquifer, the only source of water for almost 4M Virginians. So, to get to the shale where the gas is located, frackers need to drill through that aquifer. There are many examples of aquifers being polluted by fracking, but it is difficult to prove, because those water sources are rarely tested prior to fracking beginning, so there is no baseline to compare to. That’s what industry hides behind. Believe it or not, some jurisdictions allow fracking wastewater to be used in farming, even organic farming. Eat hearty!
Air Pollution is endemic to fracking sites, but impact the entire world. CO2 has exceeded 400 parts per million in the atmosphere for the first time in millions of years. The atmosphere is heating up because of that. The more methane and CO2 in the atmosphere, the warmer it will get. This is a scientific fact which the denier industry is attempting to hide.
- CO2 is created in the burning process, and escapes into the air during extraction and delivery.
- Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 (more than 80 times worse), and escapes during extraction, transportation, and burning. If you want to see just how bad it is, check out the leak in Aliso Canyon, CA, or look at the NASA images from space that show that methane leaks and flaring are visible from outer space.
A by-product of breaking up shale is releasing radon into the air and water. Materials brought to the surface release radioactivity into the air and afterwards, when the radioactive materials are disposed of. Toxic heavy metals also flow back to the surface during processing. These materials also leak into the ground water as the well materials begin to break down over time.
Most Regulations require that the well operators have bonds that cover returning the land to pre-drilling conditions. But most bonds are nominal in value, and well operators save money by simply allowing the bond to default rather than pay the true cost of returning the land to its original condition. Same when a disaster occurs – the bonds do not cover the costs of fixing a disaster. And even when the Government takes the culprit to court, judgements against the industry are gentle hand slaps – take the $2.5M fine received by Duke Energy for ash spills that have an estimated clean-up cost of $250M.
Disaster/Performance Bonds are inadequate to handle a crisis, and most State Penalties are inadequate. There are virtually no conflict of interest prohibitions against government employees leaving regulatory agencies and going to work for the very industry they regulate and no prohibitions for former industry personnel to work for agencies regulating their industry.
Additional problems for local communities:
- Heavy trucks roll continuously over roads not built to handle the weight and no provisions are made to reimburse localities for the destruction they cause.
- Pipelines are proposed to move gas across private property and through environmentally sensitive lands. Eminent Domain is used to force owners to relinquish their land.
- Trains are used to carry gas from extraction to the end-user sites, through highly populated cities and towns, sometimes with explosive results.
- Spills are inevitable; the question is not “will they” but rather “when will they?”
- Noise can be deafening from stations, truck traffic, and 24×7 operation of the wells.
- Light pollution is 24×7, impacting wildlife, along with residents.
- Non-functioning and non-producing wells must be shut down, but most operators leave before that is done.
Regulatory environment: There is inadequate monitoring by VA DEQ, and none by EPA, because of a lack of resources for the former and legislation prohibition for the latter.
Health Issues: There are so many health issues associated with fracking, you should just click on the health category.