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By Lady Wa Wa
To many of us, the idea of toxic chemicals released by fracking into our water supplies seems remote. We assume only folks living next door to hydraulic fracturing operations in Texas, Ohio or Pennsylvania could possibly be affected.
Hydraulic fracturing has now been applied more than a million times to onshore U.S. oil and gas wells. Worldwide, more than 2.5 million hydraulic fracturings have occurred, with more being planned every day.
Fracking is the process of injecting water, chemicals and sand into shale rock to release natural gas. There are numerous negative consequences of fracking near communities, as the process produces a toxic wastewater that cannot be treated by standard water sanitation facilities. In fact, people who live in areas where fracking occurs may be consuming toxic water straight from their faucets, as many watchdog groups warn.
FracFocus.org has compiled an extensive list of chemicals used in fracking, along with maps and regulations for individual states. The chemical chart is sorted alphabetically by the Product Function to make it easier for readers to compare chemicals to fracturing records .
According to Food and Water Watch.org, more than 7,500 accidents, leaks and spills related to fracking occurred in 2013, negatively impacting water quality in rivers, streams and shallow aquifers. There have also been more than 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking sites around the country, although the process is still used to extract natural gas in spite of claims made against its impact.
Water for fracking operations is mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, including over 100 suspected endocrine disruptors and carcinogens (including lead, mercury and uranium), Food and Water Watch states. Also, giant holding ponds or tanks are needed to store the chemically contaminated waste water that comes back up the hole after wells have been fractured.
Besides the fracking chemicals, the fracturing process may release benzene into nearby water sources. Benzene is clear and has a sweet smell. It can be tasted once it reaches .5—4.5 parts per million. One ppm is equivalent to a single drop in 40 gallons of water. However, Benzene is toxic in water at .005 ppm, which can’t be detected by taste or smell.
Because Benzene is found both naturally and as a result of industrial sources, people are exposed to small amounts of the chemical daily. However, when we are exposed to high quantities of Benzene, serious health problems can develop. Drinking water contaminated by Benzene can cause stomach irritation, dizziness, sleepiness, convulsion, rapid heart rate, vomiting, or in extreme cases, coma or death.
Fracking technology has been in use for decades, but only recently has the industry developed the capacity to drill horizontally within the rock formations, which requires massive amounts of water and potentially toxic chemicals. But industry secrecy about the chemicals injected into the shale has made it difficult for scientists and government agencies to get the facts on health and environmental impacts of fracking.
Individual states regulate fracturing that occurs within their borders, and they have different rules over the use of the process. The EPA says it is working with states and other key stakeholders to help ensure that natural gas extraction does not come at the expense of public health and the environment. According to the agency’s website:
“The Agency's focus and obligations under the law are to provide oversight, guidance and, where appropriate, rulemaking that achieve the best possible protections for the air, water and land where Americans live, work and play. The Agency is investing in improving our scientific understanding of hydraulic fracturing, providing regulatory clarity with respect to existing laws, and using existing authorities where appropriate to enhance health and environmental safeguards.”
New York, Vermont have already banned fracking and now California is contemplating a ban, thanks in great part to forward-thinking environmental protestors and community action groups.
FracTracker.org, a non-profit that launched in 2010, provides oil and gas maps for over 30 U.S. states with drilling activity. Simply click on your state to learn about fracking operations. These maps may include drilled wells, violations, proximity to vulnerable populations, pipelines and proposals, waste disposal sites, sand mining operations, and more.
Hydraulic Fracturing 101
Activists such as these, who are rapidly becoming more organized, larger and stronger, are busy gathering data and proof that fracking is not good for the environment – despite industry claims to the contrary. Consider this innocent-sounding summary of fracking by Halliburton, a leader in the hydraulic fracturing industry:
- “So how does this process actually work? Well, it starts with a good bit of water and a lot of sand. Mix those two together, apply a couple thousand pounds of pressure, and introduce them to a reservoir several thousand feet below, often with the help of a small percentage of additives that aid in delivering that solution down the hatch.”
- “Then physics takes over. The force of the water creates a network of tiny fissures in the impermeable rock. The flow of water acts as a delivery mechanism for the sand, which finds its way into those newly created cracks and holds them open. This creates passageways through which the previously trapped natural gas can travel to get to the wellbore. The fracturing process is now finished; on average, it takes 3 to 10 days to complete.”
- “Now it's time for the operator to remove the water, clearing the way for the newly stimulated well to produce energy for the next 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. The trucks, the pumps, the equipment, and the traffic that were needed to do the job – they're long gone. The operator typically leaves a production valve and collection equipment behind. The rest of the site is remediated, often within 120 days.”
Fracking discovered in 1866
Halliburton is not alone in its praise of this new technology credited with bringing wealth and vitality to communities. In “A Brief History of Fracking,” Brian Hicks, investment director for the income and dividend newsletter The Wealth Advisory, explains how the concept of fracking is not new. It was devised in 1866 by Civil War veteran Col. Edward Roberts who patented the "Exploding Torpedo."
As the story goes, Roberts witnessed Confederate exploding artillery rounds plunging into the narrow millrace (canal) that obstructed a battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Roberts' observation gave him an idea that would evolve into what he described as "superincumbent fluid tamping."
“Nobody knew it at the time, but Roberts' "Exploding Torpedo" was the birth of the modern-day shale fracturing industry...”
Skip ahead to 2015 and “the U.S. now has 200 years' worth of natural gas… and is predicted to be the largest oil producer in the world by the end of the decade, thanks to fracking,” says Hicks.
“Oh, and by the way... because the United States is using more natural gas as a result of the fracking revolution, the country's CO2 emissions are at a six-year low...”
Fracking is good for the environment, Hicks concludes.
U.S. touted as fracking leader
Fracking is not, of course, limited to the United States. Citing U.S. shale-extraction success and energy revitalization, Japan and Algeria are among the most recent countries to begin fracking operations – also with heavy public opposition.
Hacina Zegzeg, a coordinator for a protest movement who lives and works in In Salah, Algeria, said in a January 2015 online Observer article that her group organized protests in 2014, but the debate cooled a bit because the government agreed to hold off beginning the extraction of shale gas until 2022.
“However, at the end of December last year, the prime minister came to inaugurate the country’s first drilling site, located about 28 kilometers from In Salah… And we had not even been warned about his visit. All this reignited the movement.”
Zegzeg said a shale gas mining operation poses a serious threat to her town because the groundwater table is fossilized, meaning that the water doesn’t replenish itself.
“We are at risk of having polluted water and running out of water entirely,” Zegzeg said.
So long as humans rely on fossil fuels and can find a way to get to it, this debate will continue. Meanwhile, freshwater sources dwindle worldwide. If you live in an area where fracking is ongoing or being considered, learn all you can. Have your water tested. Contact your legislators to hold energy companies accountable for any contamination caused by fracking and to disclose the chemicals they use.
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A recent study released by the USGS shows 13% of private wells in the U.S. are contaminated with levels of metals and other elements above the set safety standards for health. Contaminants of particular concern include arsenic, uranium, manganese, radon, lithium and boron.
Some of the contaminants come from natural sources and therefore can be overshadowed by anthropogenic contamination (human-sourced). But regardless of the source, owners of private wells should test their water to determine the extent of contamination so they know what contaminants they are at risk for.
A good water test may cost $200 or more in a laboratory, but there are also home test kits available that can be bought for as little as $15. It's imperative that you find out what is in your water to determine if you should take measures to protect you and your family.
Filtering water at the tap is an inexpensive and effective fix for many elemental and chemical contaminants. There are water filters available for just about every contaminant and many of them are effective against multiple pollutants. To be extra protected, some even opt to purify their water with one of the many water purifiers on the market. Once you discover the crystal clarity and great taste of your filtered well water, you will wonder why there are so many others who are lugging big jugs from the grocery store, or stock-piling cases of plastic bottled water. You just can't beat the convenience and cost of your home-filtered water.
At Highwater Filters, we have a solution available to help you remove metals and other contaminants from your well water. A recent addition to our inventory is a ceramic counter top filter that is made specifically for well water by New Wave Enviro. It's got a cleanable ceramic filter that's designed to remove suspended solids, pathogenic bacteria, hydrogen sulfide, Chlorine, Mercury, Lead and VOC's.
Investing in a water test may be the best decision you ever make. Don't put it off. There are a number of water test products available on the web.
And please visit the Highwater Filters webstore for the best quality, U.S. made home water filters.
Special offer for readers of this blog! Take 5% off the already low price of any Premium water filter product by New Wave Enviro. You must use discount code NWDIS at checkout to get your discount.
Read more here about the USGS survey: Environmental Health News
Thanks for stopping by!
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ThomsonRueters: Fracking lawsuit could set precedent for local drilling bans
Say NO to Fracking, please.
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Do You Need a Drinking Water System?Microorganisms generally come from human or animal waste and are spread by rain and run-off. A pristine stream may be safe one day and contaminated the next. It all depends upon what’s happening upstream. Since you never know what’s in the water, it makes sense to always protect yourself with a quality water system. Beware of these three types of microorganisms: Cysts. Cysts are present in most outdoor water sources. Their relatively large size makes them easy to filter but their protective shell strongly resists chemical treatment (examples: Giardia, Cryptosporidium). Bacteria. Bacteria are a common threat in untreated water. Most quality water microfilters remove bacteria. (examples: e coli, salmonella). Viruses. Viruses are the least common microorganism, however they can also be a serious health risk. Viruses are typically too small to be removed by a water microfilter and require chemical disinfection (examples: Polio, Hepatitis A, Norwalk Virus,). Other concerns that many people around the world are struggling with are the existence of many water contaminants that originate from industry, or from illegal dumping of toxic contaminants. Accidental and deliberate spills happen every day and fines often aren’t severe enough to act as a deterrent to polluters. The pursuit of new energy sources has created some serious environmental problems. (See my previous post on hydro-fracking.) Heavy metals lace our water and soil in many of our communities. There is also a long list of chemicals that people around the world must now contend with in their drinking water. The latest threat that the people of Japan and surrounding areas are facing is contamination from the nuclear power generators that were damaged during their recent earthquake. Emissions from the Fukushima plant are at dangerous levels and swaths of the area surrounding the plant have been evacuated. There is a big demand for water treatment that eliminates radioactive particles. The good news is that a company in California, Nuwater Concepts, has developed a home water filter (TRAP) that removes radioactive particles of concern released from nuke plants. I’ve been working with them to keep me supplied with this new product and I expect to receive my first shipment sometime within the next week. I've already got them listed in my Highwater Filters store, but not quite ready to take orders yet. Please check back to see when they become available, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified as soon as they are available for sale in our webstore. If you are backpacking or hiking in the wilderness, or traveling overseas, Katadyn water filters are a popular Swiss-made brand of water filters that to those in-the-know are considered one of the best filters available anywhere. If you are concerned about your home drinking water, it behooves you to get your water tested in a lab. This will greatly benefit you when choosing a water filter. [caption id="attachment_393" align="alignleft" width="150"] The PurestOne home purifier[/caption] We just added the PurestOne home purifier that I think is one of the best deals on the market. It’s well-constructed, carries a lifetime warranty on the housing, and removes an impressive amount of contaminants from your tap water. And it’s made in the U.S.A. Feel free to comment on this blog and ask a question about your specific water treatment need. If I don’t know the answer, I can at least try to find out. Thanks for reading!
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