There’s one industry that’s causing massive pollution, harming the human and animal health, and literally creating earthquakes where they should have never appeared. And hardly anyone’s talking about it… That would be the Natural Gas industry.
Natural gas has been lauded as the “bridge” fuel of the future that will help wean us off of coal as an energy source. It promises to be “cleaner” than fossil fuels, but the process of extracting natural gas, known as fracking, is anything but. In order to extract natural gas stores, fracking companies create tiny explosions in the Earth’s bedrock and inject millions of tons of fluid into the fissures to push gas to the surface. While at the end of the process, we get natural gas … we’re also left with tons and tons … and tons of highly polluted wastewater.
A new study by Stanford scientists, published Environmental Science & Technology, found a clear link between the fracking operations and the safety of underground sources of drinking water. Operating in the town of Pavillion, Wyoming, researchers bring to light the fact that by dumping fracking fluids such as diesel fuel, concentrated with high chemicals, we’re contaminating our groundwater.
“This is a wake-up call,” said lead author Dominic DiGiulio, a visiting scholar at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “It’s perfectly legal to inject stimulation fluids into underground drinking water resources. This may be causing widespread impacts on drinking water resources.”
The frack water injected into the ground contains potentially dangerous chemicals like beneze and xylene. Fracking also releases toxic heavy metals like arsenic, barium, and chromium into soil. People and animals that consume plants grown in these soils store heavy metals in their bodies which can pose health concerns. Fracking fluid has been linked to the death of livestock who drink from polluted streams and creeks and animals exposed to fracking fluid can also become infertile or produce still-born off-spring. Little is known about the consequences eating dairy and meat from these animals could have on humans.
And fracking isn’t only polluting our water sources, but the air as well. It’s responsible for the release of airborne toxins such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxide that cause smog. Between the 1,300 truck loads of materials needed to assemble sites, venting of fracking wells, and the burning of harmful or “uneconomical” gases, levels of ozone (smog) near rural fracking sites have been higher than those recorded in Los Angeles on its worst days.
While all of this is pretty horrific – our health isn’t the only thing at stake. Because of reckless fracking practices, earthquakes are starting to appear where they had never appeared before. For example, in 2015, Oklahoma experienced more earthquakes than California, despite the fact that there are no major fault lines in Oklahoma that should cause this sort of seismic activity. In Ohio, a report stated that 77 minor earthquakes occurred over the course of ONE month. Scientists posit that the process of fracking in areas that have pre-existing, minor faults can exasperate movement. Considering the fact that fracking involves setting off a series of mini-explosions, then injecting millions of gallons of fluid into the earth, it’s no secret why this is happening.
And sadly, this practice is perfectly legal. “There are no rules that would stop a company from doing this anywhere else,” said one of the researchers.
We must come together to prevent fracking from destroying not only our lands, but our health, and the health of the environment. We will no longer stand for being poisoned from the ground up.
How You Can Help
Share this article to educate friends and family about the dangers of fracking. Knowledge is power!
Support the work of the National Wildlife Federation to protect water and wildlife from being polluted with toxic chemicals.
Advocate for Clean Energy Programs in your area. Check out the Pew Charitable Trust’s campaign to get ideas.
Featured Image Source: Dominic DiGiulio/Stanford