Ohio, Pennsylvania at their Fracking Waste Water LimitsJan 24, 2013
Problem In Pennsylvania Fracking Seen
The boom in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling in the Mid Atlantic region, mostly in Pennsylvania, has created yet another problem: the resources and availability to treat or dispose of the drilling process’ toxic waste water have become extremely strained.
According to a report from Akron Beacon-Journal, the amount of waste water being generated by the thousands of active fracking wells has put a strain on already limited resources and safety officials are worried what more proposed fracking in the region could have.
In the last five years, fracking wells have littered the landscape of mostly rural Pennsylvania and into Ohio. Fracking drilling is being used to search for natural gas deposits hidden among shale beds underlying much of the region. In Pennsylvania, it’s known as the Marcellus shale formation and in Ohio, Utica shale. Inflated estimates just a few years ago suggested that the region could hold as much as $3 trillion - or more - in natural gas reserves hidden in the rock.
Toxic Waster Water
Fracking uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water and mixes it with sand and a mix of hundreds of chemicals that are ushered with a drill through an underground horizontal well shaft that extends to the shale about two miles below the surface. The drilling mix fractures the rock and releases natural gas. Everything is then rushed back to the surface where it must be collected, stored, treated, and transferred for further processing. This includes the hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic waste water, a “briny” mix of the contents of the drilling fluid. According to The Beacon-Journal, fracking waste water is best described as containing “significant amounts of salts and total dissolved solids; low-level radiation and toxic heavy metals picked up from underground rocks; oils and grease; leftover toxic chemicals used in fracking; and certain volatile organic compounds, including benzene.”
Following a recent New York Times investigation that found Pennsylvania was already ill-equipped to handle the volume of fracking waste water it was producing, it was learned that the state has just one facility that’s capable of reportedly being able to remove the toxins from that water. In Ohio, where fracking is not as prevalent, the waste water is injected into underground wells specifically dug for the disposal of this waste.
Both states, according to a biogeochemistry professor at Kent State University who spoke to The Beacon-Journal, have essentially reached their waste water limit in how much each can handle. This poses serious concerns for millions in the region now and likely millions more as fracking drilling is poised for another expansion into New York state sometime this year.
Pennsylvania produced more than 800 million gallons of fracking waste water from its nearly 6,500 active fracking wells in 2011, alone. Of that volume, about one-third was shipped to Ohio for disposal. In fact, more than half of the fracking waste water collected in Ohio comes from neighbors Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
And dumping fracking waste water into Ohio’s underground wells may only be causing more problems, specifically for people who are nearest these wells. Previous reports suggest that the briny consistency of fracking waste may be responsible for series of uncommon earthquakes in Ohio and other areas where underground wells are the preferred method of disposing of the waste water.
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