One concern that environmentalists have with regards to hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is the threat that underground aquifers could be contaminated, endangering drinking water supplies. And a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has demonstrated just that.
One particular fracking technique is the most concerning. High volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) is responsible for the global fracking boom. Fracking consists of fracturing rocks with a pressurized liquid by injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into deep rock formations in order to allow gas reserves to migrate to a well.
Fracking has changed the face of the industry by making it cost effective to reach natural gas hidden deep below the surface of the Earth and embedded in rocks. But the recent study shows how Marcellus Shale gas wells in Pennsylvania caused natural gas and foam contamination in potable water destined for several households in the area.
The cause of the contamination is most likely stray natural gas and drilling compounds that made their way into the rock fractures and from there, into the deep water aquifers. These deep water aquifers are the source of drinking water for a number of Pennsylvania households.
Such contamination has the potential to contaminate a large quantity of drinking water and make a lot of people sick, especially considering that, as of 2013, at least 2 million gas wells in the U.S. had been fractured and these wells makeup 43 percent of oil and 67 percent of natural gas production in the U.S.
“The fact is that oil and gas drilling and fracking are poorly regulated and inherently risky. This new study, released today, drives home both of those unfortunate truths, with what EWG fears could be the first of many more signs showing threats to our drinking water,” Thomas Cluderay, general counsel for Environmental Working Group said in a statement. “We need robust regulations and more studies to better understand and address the risks associated with these chemicals. We also need to move away from an economy based on fossil fuels and towards one based on renewable energy supplies.”
Fracking has created such an economic boom that the industry hopes consumers will turn a blind eye to the environmental repercussions. But it’s much harder to look away when contaminated drinking water and mini earthquakes start to happen in your neck of the woods. It’s easy to take our clean drinking water for granted until something like this serves as a reminder as to what can happen if we don’t protect it. It’s one more reason why at this stage in the game we should be moving away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of fracking before it’s too late.
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Image of hydraulic fracturing from Shuttershock