Today is World Water Day. The H2O Thanksgiving. Today, we give thanks for the clean water that nourishes and cleans our bodies. Today, we stop our faucets to conserve this precious liquid instead of watching its whirling dance down the drain. Today, we take a moment and pray to whatever divine energy we choose for those forced to live without clean water. Today, we tell our government to stop polluting our water with fluoride and chlorine and other toxins that defile the liquid of life. Today, all hail water.
Ah, there are so many controversies surrounding water! You wouldn’t think something so simple could be the center of so many arguments, yet the topic of water is muddier than a swamp. Glaciers, poverty, fluoridation, health, agriculture, weather… all of these issues have water at their heart. Though all of them are equally important, I want to explore another of water’s many facets: fracking.
The word sounds more like a toned-down curse word than a dangerous environmental hazard. It’s actually quite fitting, I think, since fracking is fucking our planet. I mean that literally – what else would you call shoving man-made liquid into a hole? Here is the definition given by the Food and Water Watch:
“Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a modern form of drilling for gas in tight shale rock. Water, sand and toxic chemicals are injected into the earth at high pressure to crack the shale rock to release methane gas. Each fracking well requires millions of gallons of fresh water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals. Once used, this frack fluid becomes wastewater with no safe way of disposing it. Our freshwater resources are depleted or contaminated with toxic chemicals.”
That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? (Aside from the giant waste of water.) Natural gas, unlike coal and oil, is a clean-burning source of energy, so the results must be worth the risks. Right? Well let’s examine the process a bit more. Since it’s World Water Day, I want to reiterate just how much water fracking wastes. Each fracking site requires millions of gallons of water to crack open the rock, not only depleting local reservoirs but making this precious liquid unusable for the rest of its time on this earth. (And think about the gas needed to haul all that water! Seems counterproductive to me…) The ingredients for this soup de jour differ for each company, but they include such things as methanol, uranium, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, and mercury (dangersoffracking.com). Then you add the extremely salty, possibly radioactive sediment and gas particles dredged up from the bowels of the earth to give it a little spice. A sip of this juice will do more than upset your tummy, it will poison your entire body. And if you live in an area where fracking is happening, it’s in your water.
Any sane person would be wondering how this is legal. Doesn’t the EPA protect against things like this? Of course they do. Let me show you how they regulate fracking:
“When oil and gas are extracted, large amounts of brine are typically brought to the surface. Often saltier than seawater, this brine can also contain toxic metals and radioactive substances. It can be very damaging to the environment and public health if it is discharged to surface water or the land surface. By injecting the brine deep underground, Class II wells prevent surface contamination of soil and water.
When states began to implement rules preventing disposal of brine to surface water bodies and soils, injection became the preferred way to dispose of this waste fluid. All oil and gas producing states require the injection of brine into the originating formation or into formations that are similar to those from which it was extracted.” (http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/index.cfm)
See? Our government has everything under control. All we have to do is pump the waste water deeper into Mother Earth and forget about it. Happy World Water Day to you too, EPA.
If you want to know more about fracking and what it’s doing to our planet, check out these websites:
F&WW’s report on fracking. They cover all aspects of the issue, not just water pollution. Shale gas development not only leads to air, soil, and groundwater pollution, but it produces significant amounts of greenhouse gases, enough to accelerate climate change, according to the report. Lovely, yes?
Probably the best explanation of fracking I’ve found yet, and interactive, too!
A short video about homeowners’ whose properties were irreversibly damaged by fracking. Shockingly, the only interviewee in support of the fracking industry is a hotel owner whose rooms are booked indefinitely by the gas company for its workers.
The EPA’s take on fracking. Or rather, the bullshit regulations the EPA wants you to believe are keeping our planet safe.
An article about the USDA’s decision not to investigate fracking. Bad decision.