As the fracking debate and ongoing protests continue in a number of countries, 4 US states have now confirmed water pollution from drilling. Hundreds of complaints have been made about well-water contamination from oil and gas drilling, and despite claims by the industry before: pollution was confirmed in a number of them. This casts sizable doubt on the claim that such events are a rarity with this method of resource farming. For a process that’s driving most of America’s energy boom, there seems to be much about fracking for oil and natural gas that we don’t know about.
Extracting fuel from shale formations requires the pumping of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground in order to break apart the rock and free the gas. Some of that water, along with large quantities of existing underground water, returns to the surface, and this can contain high levels of salt, drilling chemicals, heavy metals and naturally occurring low-level radiation. In at least 4 states that are at the forefront of the boom in drilling for gas and oil, have reported hundreds of complaints about well-water pollution, many of which were confirmed by officials. Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012,
“Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months….. Several were also reported in Ohio, the state “had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contamination’s; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contamination’s and 14 still under investigation.” – the report stated.
Along with Pennsylvania and Ohio, 2 other states reported several complaints,
“West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said….[As well] A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling. Texas regulators haven’t confirmed a single case of drilling-related water-well contamination in the past 10 years, she said.” – AP
While some continue to see this type of resource-harvesting to be acceptable and necessary, there is a constantly growing distaste for fracking as an environmentally acceptable energy source (similar as to with the Alberta tar sands). There are much better energy sources (like bladeless wind or small thorium reactors) which represent a more cost and environmentally friendly alternative.