What the experts say about fracking and water contamination

Ralph Heath, a respected USGS geologist, is quoted on the Department of Environmental Conservation website as saying in 1964: “…..In most places ground water occurs in and moves through an intricate network of very small openings. Remarkably few wells drilling in New York fail to penetrate at least a few of these openings.”

A recent study by Food and Water Watch, “Fracking: the New Global Water Crisis:, reported that drinking water can be contaminated throughout the life cycle of a fracked well; from spills of toxic chemicals before they are even sent underground to frack a well, to surface water pollution from leaks, blowouts, traffic accidents and other accidents, to the escape of methane and other contaminants below ground. They concluded that there is the potential for irreversible damage to vital underground drinking water resources over the long term.

The “Methane Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing” study confirmed that methane gas from fracking contaminated drinking water in sites they tested.

A June 2012 report by the Pacific Institute Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack from the Fiction highlighted these risks as well as the potential conflicts with other water needs, such as for agriculture and ecosystems (the term biologists and economists use to refer to the many way nature supports the human endeavor.)  As a July 2012 New York Times article on “The Ecology of Disease” reports, “If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems that can come back and haunt us in ways we know little about.”

These impacts are explored in Anne Marie Garti’s recent paper “The Illusion of the Blue Flame:  Water Law and Unconventional Gas Drilling”, which concludes that there is a sharp distinction between the icon of natural gas as a clean blue flame and the actual and projected impact of unconventional gas drilling to water.

The statements below are from experts hired by New York City to report on the danger of surface spills and accidents

“The dSGEIS generally ignores the potential for serious adverse impacts to water quality as a result of surface spills…The groundwater impact analysis is inadequate and ignores documented incidents of contamination in other areas where this type of drilling is currently active and ignores the probability of subsurface migration through fractures and unplugged well bores.”

“Data collected on spills from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) Colorado Oil and Gas Information Service (COGIS) revealed that over the last three years oil and gas drilling spills in Colorado resulted in nearly 1,000 accidental spills/releases and that approximately 18 percent of incidents were classified as impacting ground water and eight percent of incidents were classified as impacting surface water.”

“It is also reasonable to expect that some spills will go undetected due to negligence, human error, or intentional misconduct, or that even if spills are detected, circumstances will prevent full recovery of the contaminants. This is exemplified by the recent incident in Dimock, PA in which 8,000 gallons of fracture fluids were released into a stream resulting in a fish kill. The carcinogenic chemical (Halliburton LGC-35BM) is extremely soluble, so once released to the stream it could not be recovered.”