Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) may be coming to Crawford County, and residents are unsure how to assess the potential dangers of it. On the one hand you have a mixture of different scientific reports, and on the other hand you have the gas companies putting happy ads on TV showing clean, healthy-looking actors in green landscapes telling us fracking is good for us.
By “us” I’m presuming they mean good for “them,” the gas companies’ profits. That part is really, really true.
For those who haven’t already read about it, hydraulic fracturing involves forcing water (millions of gallons of local clean water) mixed with chemicals (heh, heh, but we’re not to know which chemicals) deep into the ground under high pressure. This fractures the gas-bearing strata and releases natural gas. About 20-40% of the fluids which were forced down the well return to the surface as “flowback.”
It’s hard to know what the real dangers of fracking are, because the issues are so complex. Skeptics of fracking don’t generally have access to studies giving concrete facts and figures, for two reasons. First, because the local geology in each site tends to be different. Problem in Wyoming? Different problem in New York.
Second, the fracking companies claim their chemicals are safe for the environment, but they refuse to say what those chemicals are. They claim they’re “industrial secrets” and if they let their competitors know, the competitors would use them too. One of the results of this policy is that, if someone is accidentally contaminated, even doctors can’t find out what they were contaminated with, so it’s really difficult to know how to help them. One doctor who tried to treat a gas-field worker breathed in the gases coming off his clothes and body, and barely survived.
On top of all that, the gas companies have managed to sneak through legislation that exempts them from the clean air and water acts. This is known as the “Halliburton Loophole.” (Surprise? Or not?) They were thorough about it, too. The exemptions are included in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. One has to ask, IF the chemicals are so safe, WHY do they need exemption from those Acts which are supposed to protect the public? That is, YOU. (And me.)
I found a website with articles by a number of doctors which was sort of an eye-opener. http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/environmental-health-policy-institute/hydraulic-fracking.html
Some of the fracking chemicals, such as benzene, butoxyethanol, formaldehyde, toluene and methanol, are known to cause cancer. Known, not just “suspected.” In addition other chemicals disrupt the body’s natural hormones. Some affect reproduction or childhood development. We want natural gas for our children’s future, yeah? Er …
Along with the gas, heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic are released. Plus radioactive materials such as radon, uranium, and strontium.
Gas companies claim that leakages are “rare” but there have been many thousands of recorded incidents. Think. If the pressure is great enough to fracture rock, what are the chances of the concrete well casing never cracking?
And even if there isn’t any “leakage,” don’t forget that “flowback” is part of the drilling process. So 20-40% of those chemicals come back to the surface, and at the present, there seems no safe way to decontaminate the flowback fluids. Companies often store them in open pools (real safe, eh?) or reuse them in other wells. Or let them “accidentally” flow into nearby streams when nobody’s looking. Or send them to local sewage plants, which are totally unequipped to deal with them.
The companies claim the gas-bearing shale is far, far below the water tables. That’s true. However, this means that in order to get to the shale strata, they have to go spang through the middle of the aquifer. If the casing cracks in the region of the aquifer, or near the surface, it’s hello arsenic, hello butoxyethanol, etc., etc. And good-bye clean pure water.
One of the studies looked at wildlife and farm stock near fracking sites. Animals near wells are often unwell, and in addition they have reproductive problems: abortions, stillbirths and “failure to breed.”
Unfortunately, animals exposed to contaminants are not required to be tested. So meat from them can go straight onto your table. Animals in too poor condition to be used for human food are made into animal feed, and get fed to your pets, or to pigs and chickens. (Mom, why are my eggs glowing like that …?)
So, when you bag a deer or a turkey which might have wandered through an area where there’s fracking, can you be sure it hasn’t drunk water containing lead, toluene, and so on? And the next time you go fishing, remember that fish pick up minute amounts of contaminants and store it in their bodies.
Tourism is big in Michigan – we have wonderful places to go and great things to do. But how long will we be able to use the phrase “Pure Michigan” if we don’t introduce regulation to fracking?