Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Natural Gas Drilling, Hydrofracturing, and Ground Water - Drink Up?

A couple of YouTube videos have been making the rounds and causing some alarm among the ever-increasing number of homeowners who have active natural gas drilling in their area, and rely on groundwater for their drinking water supply. This video shows common, normal operations at a modern natural-gas drilling site in western Colorado, operated by the Canadian company EnCana, a major player in the Rockies. One video shows drilling fluids being stored onsite in a plastic-lined open pit (a "fluid reserve pit") while the well is hydrofractured, or "fracced." The other video shows this same pit being closed: as a crew removes residual fluids and pulls out the liner, a bulldozer buries the pit.


We've created a small gallery showing the drill site depicted in these videos, and adjacent residences. Although the operations depicted are probably allowed by Colorado law, nearby homeowners who have water wells for drinking and bathing are concerned about these practices as drilling permeates the area. Multiply this scene tens of thousands of times, and you get the idea what's been happening in recent years with drilling in many parts of the country.

UPDATE 9/16/09: In response to a comment, we thought folks might appreciate these links to other resources about fraccing:
  • A summary report on chemicals found in fraccing fluids, their toxicity, and health effects
  • Tables that list chemicals used in drilling and fraccing
  • This press release from The Wilderness Society supporting pending legislation that would require companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fraccing
  • Announcement that EPA found fraccing chemicals contaminating residential water wells in Pavillion, Wyoming
  • A wealth of additional information on hydrofracturing from Earthworks

3 comments:

  1. I have been online digging around this evening. All I can find in the "Fracking fluid" is water. Now it may bring up some other chemicals from the soil, but I don't see anything more than that. Granted there should be some oversight, namely to see that the sites are reclaimed, and ground water monitored (no contamination has been found to date) (as stated by Ben Casselman; Wall Street Journal). Shouldn't be very costly, they are small sites.
    Thanks,
    John

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  2. John,

    See "Gaslands".
    You couldn't find anything because the poisons are "proprietary" like the formula for Coke, hence the need for a list of the 559 chemicals in 'drilling mud, fraccing fluid and Produced Water'. Apply the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Superfund to the Oil and gad industry--unless you work for Dick Cheney ...

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  3. John - there are many different chemicals used in the formulation of drilling mud and hydrofracturing fluids. Conclusively documenting the connection between drinking water contamination and "fracking" has been difficult because few homeowners have pre-drilling, legally admissible baseline water samples of their well water to prove the contamination didn't already exist before drilling; and because the chemicals are indeed proprietary, thanks to a specific loophole exempting fracking from the disclosure requirements of the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, so homeowners wouldn't even know what chemicals to test for (these tests aren't cheap).

    And finally, because it's almost impossible to prove that "fracking" caused the contamination; industry argues that maybe it happened during some other part of the drilling process (drilling, running casing, cementing). Who can know?

    A couple of links that might be helpful:

    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amall/new_report_on_hydraulic_fractu.html

    http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amall/incidents_where_hydraulic_frac.html

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