This can’t be good.
The New York Times, one of the remaining newsgathering organizations that still does investigative journalism, has a worrisome report on the effects of hydraulic fracturing, commonly (often derisively) referred to as “fracking.”
It found internal EPA documents that show the wastewater that results from hydraulic fracturing contains toxic chemicals and radium that leaches out from the deeply embedded rock into the liquid used to extract natural gas from these wells. Says the Times:
“The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.
“Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.”
The gas and mining and drilling industries have spent a lot of effort and money arguing that there is no proof that fracking causes any real environmental harm.
Well, this could be the proverbial smoking gun that says otherwise.
For the last several years, as fracking has been touted as a home-grown solution to dependence on imported oil (side factoid: The top two sources of imported oil into the United States are Canada and Mexico. Saudi Arabia comes in at No. 3). Natural gas does burn cleaner than coal or petroleum fuels, so it has fans among environmentalists concerned about global “climate change.”
But for the last several years, a growing chorus of complaints point to contamination of ground water in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs. There is a large area of a particularly gas-rich Marcellus shale deposited beneath Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
The original concern seems to be giving way to an even more-widespread threat: Poisons not adequately filtered out of wastewater being discharged back into rivers that are sources of communities’ drinking water downstream.
So does this mean we need to start testing our drinking water for radium and dioxins? Yum!