Report on Fracking
A new report has laid bare the dangers that the fracking industry poses to water in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Stony Brook University in New York carried out an investigation into contaminated wastewater from hydraulic fracturing wells producing natural gas.
Induced hydraulic fracturing is used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction.
This process, known as fracking, is seen by some as a vital source of renewable energy, but by others as a huge threat to the state of pure water the world over as it creates a substantial amount of wastewater.
Fracking involves pumping fluids underground into shale formations to release pockets of natural gas that are then pumped to the surface.
The concern is that fractured fluids migrate through underground fractures into drinking water with petroleum, gas and its associated chemicals proving highly harmful to humans when ingested.
The report says that even in the best case scenario wastewater disposal from an individual well would potentially release 202 m3 of contaminated fluids.
The problem requires additional safeguards from the water industry to prevent radon, radium and other radioactive materials from finding their way into drinking water.
As a result, regulators and other authorities should consider additional mandatory steps to reduce the potential of drinking water contamination from salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, such as uranium, radium and radon from the rapidly expanding fracking industry, according to the report.
The new findings and recommendations come amid significant controversy over the benefits and environmental risks associated with fracking. The practice, which involves pumping fluids underground into shale formations to release pockets of natural gas that are then pumped to the surface, creates jobs and promotes energy independence, but also produces a substantial amount of wastewater.
In May, Chevron and ExxonMobil shareholders filed proposals asking the companies to disclose risks to their operations and finances from hydraulic fracturing. But fracking has also had major consequences in the UK. In spring 2012 one of the first fracking operations in England caused two earthquakes at Preese Hall, close to Blackpool. The earthquakes measured 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale.
Doreen Stopforth from Lancashire voiced her concerns to The Guardian. “For us, personally, it’s a nightmare. They go for miles underground breaking the shale and then we found out that the backflow – the chemicals and the water that comes out – is only 25% of what they put in. Where is it going? They say it won’t leak into the aquifer – how do they know? I just don’t trust them. What do they leave behind? We don’t know if the land is going to be soured.”
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