First, let’s take a look at some of the fracking numbers:
- 40,000: gallons of chemicals used for each fracturing site
- 8 million: number of gallons of water used per fracking
- 600: number of chemicals used in the fracking fluid, including known carcinogens and toxins such as lead, benzene, uranium, radium, methanol, mercury, hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol and formaldehyde
- 10,000: number of feet into the ground that the fracking fluid is injected through a drilled pipeline
- 1.1 million: number of active gas wells in the United States
- 72 trillion: gallons of water needed to run current gas wells
- 360 billion: gallons of chemicals needed to run current gas wells
- 300,000: number of barrel of natural gas produced a day from fracking
And here are eight of the worst side effects of fracking you don’t hear about from those slick TV commercials paid for by the industry.
1. Burning the furniture to heat the house.
During the fracking process, methane gas and toxic chemicals leach out from the well and contaminate nearby groundwater. The contaminated water is used for drinking water in local communities. There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near fracking areas as well as cases of sensory, respiratory and neurological damage due to ingested contaminated water.
In 2011, the New York Times reported that it obtained thousands of internal documents from the EPA, state regulators and fracking companies, which 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.”
A single well can produce more than a million gallons of wastewater, which contains radioactive elements like radium and carcinogenic hydrocarbons like benzene. In addition, methane concentrations are 17 times higher in drinking-water wells near fracking sites than in normal wells. Only 30-50 percent of the fracturing fluid is recovered; the rest is left in the ground and is not biodegradable.
“We’re burning the furniture to heat the house,” said John H. Quigley, former secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “In shifting away from coal and toward natural gas, we’re trying for cleaner air, but we’re producing massive amounts of toxic wastewater with salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials, and it’s not clear we have a plan for properly handling this waste.”
2. Squeezed out.
More than 90 percent of the water used in fracking well never returns to the surface. Since that water is permanently removed from the natural water cycle, this is bad news for drought-afflicted or water-stressed states, such as Arkansas, California, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas and Wyoming.
“We don’t want to look up 20 years from now and say, Oops, we used up all our water,” said Jason Banes of the Boulder, Colorado-based Western Resource Advocates.
The redirection of water supplies to the fracking industry not only causes water price spikes, but also reduces water availability for crop irrigation.
“There is a new player for water, which is oil and gas,” said Kent Peppler, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “And certainly they are in a position to pay a whole lot more than we are.”