Just 5 years ago, the US EPA was asked by Congress for a study of impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water.
Fracking has propelled a boom in U.S. oil production and added to the steep fall in gas prices. However.. the environmental impact of this technique are not well understood or researched.
The draft study—released last June —concluded that fracking has already contaminated drinking water, stating in the report:
We found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells…
Approximately 6,800 sources of drinking water for public water systems were located within one mile of at least one hydraulically fractured well … These drinking water sources served more than 8.6 million people year-round in 2013…
Hydraulic fracturing can also affect drinking water resources outside the immediate vicinity of a hydraulically fractured well.
Despite the findings, and EPA’s own admissions of “data limitations and uncertainties” and “the paucity of long-term systemic studies,” the agency concluded that “there is no evidence fracking has led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”
Industry cheerleaders ran with it, proclaiming “the science is settled” on fracking and that any concerns are just crazy greenies pursuing their own agenda.
Now it turns out that the EPA’s own science advisers have repudiated the study’s major conclusion, saying that it is “inconsistent with the observations, data and levels of uncertainty.”
The 31-member scientific review board said on Thursday “Major findings are ambiguous or are inconsistent with the observations/data presented in the body of the report,” .
The conclusions have already aroused suspicion of political meddling. Add the fact that EPA neglected to include high-profile cases in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming “where hydraulic fracturing activities are perceived by many members of the public to have caused significant local impacts to drinking water sources.”
The draft report also found that failed wells and above ground spills may have affected drinking water resources, with evidence of more than 36,000 spills from 2006 to 2012.
“Spill data alone “gives sufficient pause to reconsider the statement” that there’s no evidence of systemic, widespread damage, said panelist Bruce Honeyman, professor emeritus at the Colorado School of Mines.
“It’s important to characterize and discuss the frequency and severity of outliers that have occurred,” said panelist Katherine Bennett Ensor, chairwoman of the Rice University Department of Statistics.
And panel member James Bruckner, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Georgia, said the report glosses over the limited data and studies available to the agency.
“I do not think that the document’s authors have gone far enough to emphasize how preliminary these key conclusions are and how limited the factual bases are for their judgments,” Bruckner said.
Young, the University of California professor who suggested rewriting the top-line conclusion, faulted the document for trying “to draw a global and permanent conclusion about the safety or impacts of hydraulic fracturing at the national level” given the “uncertainties and data limitations described in the report.””
It would appear there may be heavy pressure to revise the EPA’s conclusion in the final report, and the oil and gas industry will have a PR mosh pit to contend with.
Fracking was pushed into use before the environmental impacts could be assessed. Public health and environmental quality took a back seat to profits of an industry that long ago cemented its grip on federal and state governments.
The oil and gas industry tried their hardest, with the help of government agencies, to keep the identity of fracking fluids from becoming public knowledge. But as that information has come out, we are finding that these chemicals pose catastrophic risks to human health, as a study by the Yale School of Public Health points out.
In an analysis of more than 1,000 chemicals in fluids used in or created by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), researchers from the School of Public Health at Yale found that many of the substances have been linked to reproductive and developmental health problems, and the majority had undetermined toxicity due to insufficient information.
Further exposure and epidemiological studies are urgently needed to evaluate potential threats to human health from chemicals found in fracking fluids and wastewater created by fracking.
Contamination of drinking water is not the only threat that fracking poses. Oklahoma, which has gone full speed ahead with fracking operations, has seen a 730 percent increase in earthquake activity since 2013. Since the start of the new year, 69 earthquakes have struck, with two registering a magnitude of 4.7 and 4.8.
The state’s own Geological Survey admitted, “we know that the recent rise in earthquakes cannot be entirely attributed to natural causes.” They say the earthquakes are caused by wastewater injection wells, not fracking, but this is dubious considering the tremendous influence of the oil and gas industry in that state.
A report released last year by a group of seismologists, researchers, and oil and gas industry representatives “overwhelming connected hydro fracturing to the surge in earthquakes.”
It is past time for government to stop endangering public and environmental health by protecting the fossil fuel industry with bogus conclusions in its risk assessments.
With thanks to Naturalblaze.com
Fracking plays active role in generating toxic metal wastewater.
The production of hazardous wastewater in hydraulic fracturing is assumed to be partly due to chemicals introduced into injected freshwater when it mixes with highly saline brine naturally present in the rock. But a Dartmouth study investigating the toxic metal barium in fracking wastewater finds that chemical reactions between injected freshwater and the fractured shale itself could play a major role.
The findings, which are published in the journal Applied Geochemistry, show that transformation of freshwater used for fracking to a highly saline liquid with abundant toxic metals is a natural consequence of water-rock reactions occurring at depth during or following fracking. Fracking wastewater poses a hazard to drinking water supplies if improperly disposed.
The researchers examined samples from three drill cores from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New York to determine the possible water-rock reactions that release barium and other toxic metals during hydraulic fracturing. The Marcellus Shale in the eastern United States contains large natural gas reserves, which have been extensively exploited in recent years using hydraulic fracturing. A mile below Earth’s surface where fracturing takes place, chemical reactions occur between water and fractured rock at elevated pressure and temperature and in the absence of oxygen.
Hydraulic fracturing is an important technological advance in the extraction of natural gas and petroleum from black shales, but produced wastewater, or water that is produced along with shale gas and petroleum following fracking, is extremely saline and contains extraordinarily high concentrations of barium. It has been assumed that the peculiar composition of the produced wastewater results from mixing of freshwater used for fracking with high salinity water already underground that also contains barium. But the Dartmouth team found that a large amount of barium in the shale is tied to clay minerals, and this barium is readily released into the injected water as the water becomes more saline over time.
“Based on barium yields determined from laboratory leaching experiments of the Marcellus Shale and a reasonable estimate of the water/rock mass ratio during hydraulic fracturing, we suggest that all of the barium in produced water can be reconciled with leaching directly from the fractured rock,” says senior author Mukul Sharma, a professor of Earth Sciences. “Importantly, barium behavior allows us to understand the behavior of radium, which is very abundant in produced water and is a very real environmental concern. There has been much discussion about injection of water with lots of toxic compounds during fracking. What is less known is that produced water is hazardous waste and chemical reactions between water and the rock are likely playing a role in its formation, not simply a mixing of freshwater with natural brines in the rock.”
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Dartmouth College.
- Devon Renock, Joshua D. Landis, Mukul Sharma. Reductive weathering of black shale and release of barium during hydraulic fracturing. Applied Geochemistry, 2016; 65: 73 DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2015.11.001
(Source: sciencedaily.com; December 15, 2015; http://tinyurl.com/j8un36c)
A HUGE worry for anyone within miles of fracking operations is the poisoning of groundwater.
Thousands of litres of poisons are added to millions of litres of water pumped under pressure to break up the substructure of gas bearing rock.
This report from Treehugger, however, means the frackers who don’t want to take responsibility will be seriously fracked.
See it here.
‘Fracking’ Wastewater That Is Treated For Drinking Produces Potentially Harmful Compounds
“Enhanced Formation of Disinfection By-Products in Shale Gas Wastewater-Impacted Drinking Water Supplies”
Environmental Science & Technology
Concerns that fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” are contaminating drinking water abound.
Now, scientists are bringing to light another angle that adds to the controversy. A new study, appearing in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, has found that discharge of fracking wastewaters to rivers, even after passage through wastewater treatment plants, could be putting the drinking water supplies of downstream cities at risk.
William A. Mitch, Avner Vengosh and colleagues point out that the disposal of fracking wastewater poses a major challenge for the companies that use the technique, which involves injecting millions of gallons of fluids into shale rock formations to release oil and gas. The resulting wastewater is highly radioactive and contains high levels of heavy metals and salts called halides (bromide, chloride and iodide). One approach to dealing with this wastewater is to treat it in municipal or commercial treatment plants and then release it into rivers and other surface waters. The problem is these plants don’t do a good job at removing halides. Researchers have raised concern that halide-contaminated surface water subsequently treated for drinking purposes with conventional methods, such as chlorination or ozonation, could lead to the formation of toxic byproducts. Mitch’s team set out to see if that was indeed the case.
The researchers diluted river-water samples of fracking wastewater discharged from operations in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, simulating real-world conditions when wastewater gets into the environment. In the lab, they then used current drinking-water disinfection methods on the samples. They found that even at concentrations as low as 0.01 percent up to 0.1 percent by volume of fracking wastewater, an array of toxic compounds formed.
Based on their findings, the researchers recommend either that fracking wastewater should not be discharged at all into surface waters or that future water treatment include specific halide-removal techniques.