October 20th, 2014
At one time or another, all you readers out there must have heard about hydrofracking, which is also known as hydraulic fracturing, or simply fracking. The process of fracking involves drilling a vertical well thousands of feet down into the ground in order to reach deeply buried deposits of shale (oil and gas), which is found in the bedrock. After drilling down deep into the earth and reaching the shale, the drill then turns and starts drilling horizontally along the shale deposit. “Fracking Fluid”, which is an appalling mixture of water, toxic chemicals– including known carcinogens– and sand is then forced down the well with intense pressure. The fluid spreads out against the horizontal drilling site and fractures the shale. This releases a mixture of trapped gas, or oil, which has come to be known as “natural gas”. The mixture of gas and oil is then pumped back up to the surface via the vertical well. The gas and oil is separated out from the water and sent elsewhere to be processed. Thousands of gallons of contaminated water is then left behind. Over the last couple of decades, people, organizations, and big businesses have all been debating whether or not the contaminated water that’s left over from these drilling operations has the potential to contaminate people’s drinking water or water wells.
Within the last couple of years, new evidence has arisen about this topic. The evidence proves that the contaminated water does leaks off into people’s private water wells, contaminating their drinking and household water. A group of researchers recently sampled and analyzed water from 141 drinking water wells that are located in northeastern Pennsylvania, an area where extensive amounts of hydrofracking is happening. The people’s drinking wells that were located closer to hydrofracking sites (defined in the study as less than one kilometer– .62 miles– away) had much higher concentrations of methane, ethane, and propane than the water samples from those water wells which were further away from the hydrofracking sites. Methane– an odorless, flammable gas– was found in 82% of the drinking water wells, with the concentrations six times higher for those homes that are less than one kilometer away from a natural gas well. Ethane– an odorless, colorless gas which is also a byproduct of petroleum refining– was 23 times higher in the water samples taken from the wells that were less than one kilometer away from a natural gas well compared to those further away. Propane, another type of gas, was also found in ten of the wells, which were all in an approximate one kilometer radius from at least one natural gas well.
Scientists tried coming up with other explanations for the high concentrations of gas in these wells besides their proximity to natural gas wells, including their proximity to certain geologic formations, such as the Appalachian Structural Front. Scientists thought that the Appalachian Structural Front could have possibly been the source of the natural gas. However, this factor was deemed insignificant, because it didn’t reach the proper level of statistical significance. Also, by looking at the chemical signatures of the gas found in the contaminated water, scientists found that the gases in the water were most likely products of hydrofracking and not from natural circumstances. In the end, the gas companies’ claims that hydrofracking doesn’t contaminate ground water have been proved wrong. Hydrofracking has officially been linked to groundwater pollution.
It has been thought that the leakage of these gases into ground water is due to “poor [natural gas] well construction. Due to the noticeable decline in natural gas prices over the last couple of years, the profit margins of harvesting natural gas have dropped significantly. Due to this, some corners are being cut in order to keep production costs low. Safety procedures can be thrown out when an industry values profits more than they do the general public’s safety.
With regard to this new uncovered information, it is also important to point out that there have been little to no long-term studies done to show the effects of hydrofracking on people living near where it is taking place. This is mostly due to the fact that the government, along with big oil and gas companies, suppress any possible studies that might be conducted. If the natural gas industry continues to grow, it could mean the sickening of potentially millions of people and the further destruction of our environment.
Natural gas isn’t worth hurting 99% of people in order to make massive profits for the other 1%. It’s time to stop using and supporting natural gas and to start using clean, renewable energy instead!
Guelpa, Philip. “World Socialist Web Site.” Scientific Study Confirms Groundwater Contamination by Hydraulic Fracturing -. World Socialist Web Site, 9 July 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.
Hydrofracking Faucet Flame. Digital image. Http://geopathology-za.wikidot.com/fracking. Wikidot, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.