Is Fracking Worth the Risks?

WTRF recently reported that drilling has begun at the first gas well in Hancock County which is located at the Alison Farms well outside New Cumberland, West Virginia. Hundreds if not thousands of wells have already been drilled in Tyler, Wetzel, Marshall, Ohio, and Brooke Counties. The process used by the oil and gas companies to free the gas trapped underneath the surface is called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." With so many wells being drilled in the Ohio Valley, and many more expected in the near future, citizens of the Northern Panhandle need to question the safety and consequences of utilizing "fracking" to drill for gas in our communities.

The emergence of "fracking" was brought about by legislation championed by former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The Bush administration passed an energy bill which included a section called the Safe Drinking Water Act [42 U.S.C. 300h(d)] which excluded proper regulation, inspection, and testing of the "underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities."

"Fracking" is a mining operation which forces gas and sometimes oil out of our underground rock layers that lay thousands of feet below our earth's surface. The operation relies upon inserting millions of gallons of fracking fluid which contains water, sand slurry, and hundreds of chemicals which are forced under the earth's surface and used to crack apart the rock formations thereby allowing the gas to escape and rise to the surface. But as with any operation, the gas doesn't always migrate appropriately and can actually end up in one's drinking water, which has already been reported in numerous cases throughout the valley. For whatever reason, the drilling companies are not forced to advise the public what breakdown of the chemicals utilized in this operation are. If these chemicals are completely safe as reported by the oil and gas companies, why do so many water trucks predominately drive in the dark and cover of night while hauling away the residual waste waters drawn out after the drilling operation?

One of these gas wells can recover more than a million gallons of water that has been chemically treated and contaminated with products that lie underneath our earth and have been undisturbed for thousands of years. This contaminated liquid contains the chemicals that had been added to the fracking process, some of which naturally leak from the drilling operation into our aquifer. The fluid that is recovered is then treated at waste water treatment plants only to be discharged back into our rivers and streams. It has been reported that the fluid deposited back into our rivers and streams contains .5 percent of these chemicals used in the "fracking" process. This may seem like a small number at first glance but in reality there are 20 tons of chemicals per million gallons of fracking fluid that ultimately get discharged back into our water sources. The toxins that are mixed into the fracking fluid include acrylamide, benzene, naphthalene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene.

Shockingly our laws recognize the mixture of the fracking fluids to be of a proprietary nature and therefore not disclosed to the public.

The potential adverse consequences of "fracking" are not limited to onlyenvironmental pollution. In times of drought and scarcity of water, these companies draw out up to 7 million gallons of water from our rivers and streak in order to frack a single well. This alone can cause devastation to our streams and rivers and takes away this natural resource shared in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The oil and gas industry has invaded our communities and is removing our precious resources. Without question people have been enamored or blinded by the monies being paid for extracting the resources under their properties. Given the risks potentially caused by the oil and gas companies and their drilling operations, we all need to question whether the money is worth the health risk and toll upon the well-being of our residents, our community resources, and our infrastructure.

Our planet hopefully is going to be around for a long time, and we've already engaged in the debate over global warming. Weather wise, we had the warmest winter last year that one can remember for years. Our water levels are down this summer and we have experienced one of the hottest summers. Whether this is a coincidence or a result of global warming really makes no difference. We are stewards of our planet, and each of us has a responsibility to preserve it for all future generations.

This blog is not meant to attract clients but rather is meant to alert and advise our entire community that we all should be concerned about what is happening in our local environment at this time so that we can insist that legislation is enacted to protect the environment, not only presently, but for all future generations. Each of us needs to learn as much about fracking and the effects upon the environment as possible and then do what we all know is right in insisting upon protective and safe legislation for all fracking operations.


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