Water Contamination


Gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing “fracking” has the potential to cause irreparable and widespread contamination of our clean, pure water supply in the Catskills, the source of water for millions of people.  Irreversible impacts could include contamination of our acquifers from the toxic chemicals used in fracking,  depletion of those aquifers to provide the enormous supplies of water needed for the fracking process, and contamination of groundwater supplies from the billions of gallons of hazardous wastewater byproducts that are produced by fracking.

Waste from fracking could pollute our aquifers

Of particular concern in the Catskills is the very real threat that the toxic chemicals injected into wells during fracking could migrate into the subsurface aquifer, the underground layer of permeable rock, sediment and soil from which we get our water.

Renowned hydrogeologist Tom Myers, Ph.D. in his peer-review study, “Potential Contaminant Pathways from Hydraulically Fractured Shale to Aquifers“ has now scientifically proven that toxic fracking waste could contaminate our aquifers two ways – through the normal process of advective transport (the transport of a mass of fluid through layers of rock) and through fractures in the earth that exist in and around a fracking well pad.  His study stressed that since the direction of transport of contamination is unknown, it is possible that underground migration could also contaminate distant sources, such as the New York City and update watersheds.

The huge water withdrawals needed for fracking could deplete our aquifers

There is a very real danger that the enormous water withdrawals required for fracking could deplete our aquifers.  Each fracking requires millions of gallons of water, which is drawn from area lakes and rivers and transported in large 18-wheeler trucks over local roads.  Average estimates are that individual frackings require 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 gallons of water, although there are reports that some fracking operations require as much as 8,000,000 gallons per fracking.  Take those numbers and multiply them by multiple frackings per well and possibly thousands of wells across the state, and the withdrawal of water could be mammoth.

Fracking wastewater could contaminate groundwater supplies

The natural gas companies’ assertions that fracking is safe is belied by thousands of documented cases of drinking water supplies, streams and aquifers being contaminated across the country.

An average of 20% to 40% of the water from each “fracking” returns to the surface as chemically laden, briny and possibly radioactive waste from exposure to naturally existing radon underground.  It then sits in holding ponds until it is trucked to treatment plants.  Even in a perfect world where there were no well casing failures, no accidents at the well pad or on the road, and no problems at waste facilities, the toxic waste from fracking would still be a danger to our water.  For more on problems with wastewater, click here.

In the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Dimock, state regulators have repeatedly penalized Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. for contaminating the drinking water wells of 14 homes with leaking methane and for numerous spills of diesel and chemical drilling additives, including one that contaminated a wetland and killed fish.  For more on fracking accidents, click here.

study released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on December 8, 2011, detected synthetic chemicals, “like the ones used in hydraulic fracturing”, in aquifers in Pavillion, Wyoming.  This came after residents complained of many health problems, which have been associated with the drilling for natural gas.

A clear picture of just our vulnerable we are to fracking and its byproducts is explained in South African filmmaker Jolynn Minnaar’s film Unearthed: The Fracking Facade.

Learn more about the danger of our water from fracking:

What the experts say

Why water is more precious than gas

Worldwide threats to water

About Catskill watersheds

Based on extensive study and scientific evidence, Catskill Mountainkeeper has called for a ban on fracking. We are also working within the existing regulatory process in New York to raise critical issues, widen the discussion of the impacts of drilling, and expand the options available to protect the public.



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