November 13, 2011
Fracked Water is On Its Way to Your Tap
But it's Not too Late to Stop It
By Stan Shapiro
It’s really unbelievable. Some of the richest corporations in the country have now decided that their profits are more important than our air, water and land. All of these precious resources are put in peril by fracking, the process these giants have come up with to mine “natural” gas from the earth.
Many of you already know the perils of fracking, so for you let me get right to the end of this story. The Delaware River Basin Commission will decide on Monday, November 21 whether or not to approve draft regulations that will end a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Water Shed. If the moratorium ends, that will put the drinking water of 15.6 million residents of New York and PA in jeopardy, including everyone living in Philadelphia.
A broad coalition of groups will be heading to the Commission’s hearing in Trenton to let their voices be heard in opposition to this dangerous proposal. Buses will be leaving 30th Street station that morning to help us arrive early ahead of the astroturfed supporters of fracking that the industry is expected to send. Click here to reserve your seat on the bus.
Now, for those of you who aren’t aware of what the fracking menace entails, let me summarize.
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Fracking Kills the Water, Earth and Air
Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water laced with dangerous chemicals deep into the earth. The pressure from the water and the action of the chemicals literally fractures the shale rock in which the gas is trapped, forcing it to the surface where it is collected. Much of the water pumped underground is just left there to fester until it eventually oozes into the ground water. Other portions of it are returned to the surface along with the natural gas and dumped into huge surface pools in which it is supposed to safely lie until it evaporates. Still other parts of the wastewater are lightly treated in sewage plants and then dumped directly into rivers. These waters will be laced with carcinogens like benzene, highly corrosive salts, and radioactive elements like radium.
We have already experienced what happens to the highly toxic water that is the central, driving force of fracking. Recent heavy rains in the Northeast caused many collecting pools to spill over, pouring toxins into the ground water that is the lifeblood of local residents, and cascading into surrounding streams and rivers. Hundreds of cases of contamination were discovered by the EPA as far back as 1987, but kept from public view due to secret settlements with victims. In 2010 Vanity Fair Magazine reported that Dimock, Pennsylvania, which was heavily mined a few years ago, has had its drinking water aquifer virtually destroyed.
Earthquakes may have been caused as well, according to reports both in the US and England.
The air has also been poisoned by fracking. According to the New York Times, in 2009 Wyoming, whose air had previously been pristine, failed for the first time ever to meet federal standards because of fumes containing benzene and toluene that were emitted from some 27,000 wells operating in the state. Levels of ozone in one rural Wyoming county soared over levels recorded in Houston and Los Angeles.
Public health disasters due to this multi-pronged environmental assault have also begun to emerge. In Texas, where gas drilling has exploded, so have cases of childhood asthma. Near one drilling site in Pennsylvania, an E.P.A.-accredited environmental-testing company sampled the soil and found arsenic at 6,430 times permissible levels and tetrachloroethene, a carcinogen and central-nervous-system suppressant, at 1,417 times permissible levels.
It Makes the World Ugly Too
The esthetic cost of fracking is deplorable. As stated by the Times, in parts of Pennsylvania where there is fracking:
"Drilling derricks tower over barns, lining rural roads like feed silos. Drilling sites bustle around the clock with workers, some in yellow hazardous material suits, and 18-wheelers haul equipment, water and waste along back roads.
The rigs announce their presence with the occasional boom and quiver of underground explosions. Smelling like raw sewage mixed with gasoline, drilling-waste pits, some as large as a football field, sit close to homes."
It's Worst In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania, with its excessively lax regulatory scheme, is ground zero for the worst of the effects of hydrofracking. For instance PA is the only state that lets drillers dispose of waste water, after light sewage treatment, directly into rivers, rather than into underground wells. The Times discovered that more than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced in PA wells over the past three years, far more than previously disclosed. Among other things, high radium levels were discovered in this water, at levels 100 times considered safe.
Please Get On the Bus November 21
Downstream, Philly has not yet been damaged by the gathering fracking disaster, only because of the drilling moratorium that now hangs in the balance to be continued or ended by the DRBC on November 21. Again, if you want the Commission to know you won't tolerate the poisoning of your drinking water, click here to get on the bus.
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