Welcome back to the ranks of S.C.R.E.W.E.D! We’re still ploughing our way through the ‘fracked by Cuadrilla & Exxon’ top ten and at number 3 we have,
In addition to all the water and toxic chemicals, fracking requires the use of fine sand, or frac sand, which has driven a silica sand mining boom in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which together have 164 active frac sand facilities with 20 more proposed. Both states are where most of the stuff is produced and where regulations are lax for air and water pollution monitoring. Northeastern Iowa has also become a primary source.
“Silica can impede breathing and cause respiratory irritation, cough, airway obstruction and poor lung function,” according to Environmental Working Group. “Chronic or long-term exposure can lead to lung inflammation, bronchitis and emphysema and produce a severe lung disease known as silicosis, a form of pulmonary fibrosis. Silica-related lung disease is incurable and can be fatal, killing hundreds of workers in the U.S. each year.”
“I could feel dust clinging to my face and gritty particles on my teeth,” said Victoria Trinko, a resident of Bloomer, Wisconsin. Within nine months of the construction of frac sand mine, about a half-mile from her home, she developed a sore throat and raspy voice and was eventually diagnosed with environment-caused asthma. She hasn’t opened her windows since 2012.
Across the 33-county frac sand mining area that spans Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, nearly 60,000 people live less than half a mile from existing or proposed mines. And new danger zones will likely pop up around the nation: Due to the fracking boom, environmentalists and public health advocates warn that frac sand mines could spread to several states with untapped silica deposits, including Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.
Bryan Shinn, the chief executive of sand mining company U.S. Silica Holdings said in September that due to the fracking boom, they “see a clear pathway to the volume of sand demand that’s out there doubling or tripling in the next four to five years.”
4. Shake, Rattle Snake & Roll.
On April 20, the U.S. Geological Survey released a long-awaited report that confirmed what many scientists have long speculated: the fracking process causes earthquakes. Specifically, over the last seven years, geologically stable regions of the U.S., including parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas, have experienced movements in faults that have not moved in millions of years. Plus, it’s difficult or impossible to predict where future fracking-caused earthquakes will occur.
“They’re ancient faults,” said USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth. “We don’t always know where they are.”
Ellsworth led the USGS team that analyzed changes in earthquake occurrence rates in the central and eastern United States since 1970. They found that between 1973–2008, there was an average of 21 earthquakes of at least magnitude three. From 2009-2013, the region experienced 99 M3+ earthquakes per year. And the rate is still rising. In Oklahoma, there were 585 earthquakes in 2014—more than in the last 35 years combined.
“The increase in seismicity has been found to coincide with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells in several locations, including Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio,” the report states. “Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed and approved for this purpose.”
For many years, Oklahoma’s government has been reluctant to concede the connection between fracking and earthquakes. In October of last year, during a gubernatorial election debate with state Rep. Joe Dorman, a Democrat, Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, declined to say whether or not she believed earthquakes were caused by fracking. Fallin was re-elected.
But the government has finally come around. The day after the USGS report was released, on April 21, the Oklahoma Geological Survey, a state agency, released a statement saying that is it “very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those is central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells.”
The same day, the state’s energy and environment department launched a website that explains the finding along with an earthquake map and what the government is doing about it all. According to the site, “Oklahoma state agencies are not waiting to take action.”
Now there is a split between the state’s governmental branches: Two days after the executive branch admitted that fracking causes earthquakes, the state’s lawmakers, evidently unmoved by the trembling ground, passed two bills, backed by the oil and gas industry, that limit the ability of local communities to decide if they want fracking in their backyards.