Hydraulic Fracturing | Fracking
Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) Could be Poisoning Your Drinking Water
You may have heard about environmentalists protesting against hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Fracking is a process in which water is typically mixed with sand and chemicals, and the mixture is injected at high pressure into a wellbore – or drill hole – to create fractures. The ultimate purpose is to extract natural gas from rock formations in the ground. The process, however, has become highly controversial because considerable evidence shows that fracking can contaminate local water supplies. Furthermore, companies that engage in the practice are entitled to special exemptions under federal law, despite the fact that many people may be drinking poisoned water as a result of this process.
Experts have suspected that fracking was a health hazard since the late 1980s. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report stated that in 1987 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had concluded that hydraulic fracturing of a deep natural gas well in Jackson County, West Virginia, contaminated groundwater and private wells. The official EPA report, titled "Cracks in the Facade," is available for review.
Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) - What is it?
About 90 percent of the nation's natural gas and oil wells use fracking. Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below the surface. This opens existing fractures in the rock and allows gas to rise from the wells.
Many of the chemicals used in shale gas drilling, such as benzene, are hazardous to humans and animals. Long-term exposure to such chemicals can have serious health consequences. The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act; as a result, shale gas drillers don't have to disclose the mix of chemicals they use in shale gas drilling.
However, despite attempts by these companies to keep the composition of their fracking fluids secret, we do know something about what they contain. A recent study conducted by Theo Colburn, PhD, the director of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange in Paonia, Colorado, has so far identified 65 chemicals that are probable components of the injection fluids used by shale gas drillers. Chemicals include benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols. All of these chemicals have been linked to health disorders when human exposure is too high.
People’s Health, Communities and Environment Damaged by Fracking
People living in the vicinity of shale gas drilling have reported foul-smelling tap water. In some instances gas well pipes used in fracking have broken, resulting in leakage of contaminants into the surrounding ground.
Fracking devastated one small town in Pennsylvania called Dimock. Cabot Oil & Gas drilled dozens of wells in Dimock. Sadly, problems with the cement casing on 20 of those wells caused contamination of local water wells, driving down property values and causing sickness. In some cases, methane levels in some Dimock water wells are so high that homeowners could set water aflame as it flowed from the tap.
In April 2010, state environmental regulators fined Cabot $240,000 and ordered it to permanently shut three wells and install water-treatment systems in 14 homes within 30 days or face a $30,000 a month fine. Cabot's more than two-dozen pending drilling applications were also put on hold.
The violations seen in Dimock are not uncommon in Pennsylvania. A 2010 report issued by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association found that the state had identified 1,435 violations by 43 Marcellus Shale drilling companies since January 2008. Of those, 952 of the violations were identified as having, or likely to have, an impact on the environment.
The Texas Barnett shale region is another area where fracking is booming. In August 2010, an air sampling taken from the Texas town of Dish by Wolf Eagle Environmental “confirmed the presence in high concentrations of carcinogenic and neurotoxin compounds in ambient air near and/or on residential properties.” In June 2010, tests by the Texas Railroad Commission showed arsenic, barium, chromium, lead and selenium in a residential water well in Dish. The tainted water turned up at a home in Dish shortly after a nearby gas well was drilled.
Results of air testing by the commission released the same month detected benzene concentration, 37 parts per billion (ppb), at a Devon Energy complex on Jim Baker Road between the towns of Justin and Dish. The highest benzene reading overall, 95 ppb, was detected at a Stallion Oilfield Services commercial disposal well in Parker County. All six facilities revisited by state inspectors are within about 1,000 feet from people’s homes.
Earlier this decade, the Canadian drilling company EnCana began ramping up development in Wyoming’s Pavillion/Muddy Ridge gas fields. In the summer of 2010, the majority of Pavillion residents who participated in a health survey reported having respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, itchy skin, dizziness and other ailments. According to the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, many residents also reported that their well water was tainted by fracking. Various ailments that residents reported are associated with contaminants that the EPA has identified in Pavillion well water, Earthworks said.
Such reports don't even begin to tell the whole story of the damage fracking has done to communities and parts of the environment stretching across the country.
Legal Help for Victims of Hydraulic Fracturing
Hydraulic fracturing is destroying the environment and threatening the health of thousands of people. If you and your family have become victims of contamination caused by fracking, you have valuable legal rights. Please fill out our online form, or call 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636) today to schedule a free consultation with one of our hydraulic fracturing lawyers.