You may have heard of environmentalists protesting hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Fracking is a process by which water is mixed with sand and chemicals and the mixture is injected at high pressure into a wellbore, or drill hole, to create fractures. This process is performed to extract natural gas from rock formations in the ground. The fracking process has become highly controversial because evidence shows that fracking may contaminate local water supplies. Additionally, companies engaging 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. If you believe that you’ve been harmed by environmental contamination caused by fracking, you may be able to secure a fracking lawsuit settlement with the help of the experienced attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP.
Experts have suspected that fracking is a health hazard since the late 1980s. In 2011, it came to light that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had studied this issue in 1987 and concluded that hydraulic fracturing of a deep natural gas well in Jackson County, West Virginia, contaminated groundwater and private wells. The Environmental Working Group unearthed this research in a report called “Cracks in the Facade.”
Our firm is investigating potential fracking lawsuits on behalf of individuals who may have suffered injuries or losses due to these drilling operations. A fracking lawyer on our team can offer skilled legal representation to help you get compensation. Call us today for a free case evaluation to get started.
What Is Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand, and a mixture of chemicals horizontally and at high pressure into rock formations thousands of feet below Earth’s surface. This process opens existing fractures in the rock and allows gas to rise from the wells. About 90 percent of the nation’s natural gas and oil wells are fracked.
Many of the chemicals used in shale gas drilling, such as benzene, are hazardous to humans and animals. Long-term exposure to these chemicals may lead to serious health consequences. However, the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, meaning that shale gas drillers are not required to disclose the mix of chemicals they use in their drilling processes.
Despite attempts by these companies to conceal the composition of their fracking fluids, some information about what they contain is known. A study conducted by Dr. Theo Colborn, founder of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange in Paonia, Colorado, identified 65 chemicals considered to be probable components of the injection fluids used by shale gas drillers. These chemicals have been linked to health disorders at high exposures, and they 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.
Yale Study Links Fracking to Cancer-Causing Chemicals
An October 2016 study conducted by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment also found that fracking involves a number of cancer-causing chemicals. These carcinogens may contaminate the air and water, harming the health of people living near fracking sites. Research suggests that the chemicals involved in fracking have the potential to increase the risk of childhood leukemia. This disease is known for its severity and short latency period, meaning the leukemia may appear quickly after exposure to a carcinogen. Lead author Nicole Deziel, Ph.D., stated, “Because children are a particularly vulnerable population, research efforts should first be directed toward investigating whether exposure to hydraulic fracturing is associated with an increased risk.”
Dr. Deziel and her team analyzed a list of more than 1,000 chemicals that may contaminate the air or water due to fracking in one of the most comprehensive reviews of carcinogens associated with fracking to date. Researchers found that more than 80 percent of the chemicals used in fracking lacked data on their potential to cause cancer. There was sufficient data on 119 chemicals. Of these, 44 percent of water pollutants and 60 percent of air pollutants were confirmed as possible carcinogens, according to the study’s authors. Some of these compounds have the potential to contaminate both air and water; in total, 55 unique compounds were identified as potential carcinogens in fracking.
People, Communities, and Environments Harmed 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. This was the case for people living in one Pennsylvania town.
Fracking devastated Dimock, a small town in Pennsylvania, after Cabot Oil & Gas began fracking operations there in 2008. The company drilled dozens of wells in Dimock, but problems with the cement casing on 20 of those wells caused contamination of local water wells, driving down property values and causing illness in the town’s population. Methane levels in some Dimock water wells were so high that homeowners could set water aflame as it flowed from the tap.
In April 2010, state environmental regulators fined Cabot $240,000. The company also received orders to permanently shut three wells and install water treatment systems in 14 homes within 30 days or face a $30,000 per month fine. More than two dozen of the company’s pending drilling applications were also put on hold. The company also faced numerous fracking lawsuits, and some of these legal battles are still pending.
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 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, air sampling in 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 a benzene concentration of 37 parts per billion (ppb) at a Devon Energy complex 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 were within about 1,000 feet of residences.
In the summer of 2010, the majority of residents in Pavillion, Wyoming, who had participated in a health survey, reported having respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, itchy skin, dizziness, and other ailments after a Canadian drilling company, EnCana, began ramping up development of nearby gas fields. According to the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, many residents also reported that their well water was tainted by fracking. Earthworks reported that ailments residents reported were associated with contaminants that the EPA had identified in Pavillion’s well water.
Such reports do not even begin to tell the whole story of the damage fracking has done to communities across the country.
Find 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 may be entitled to compensation from a fracking lawsuit settlement. Fill out our online contact form or call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) today to schedule a free consultation with a skilled fracking lawyer at Parker Waichman who can help you stand up for your legal rights.