What are the Dangers of Fracking?
Photo by Bosc d’Anjou
Fracking is used to describe hydraulic-fracturing to obtain natural gas from shale deposits, but it’s not a one-sided coin, even though it does bring money into the areas where it is done. Many people have serious and vital concerns about the effects that fracking has on our environment.
Hydraulic-fracturing is a process that uses high-pressure water and chemical/sand mixtures to break shale formations apart and hold the fractures open so that natural gas or oil can be extracted. The reserves that can be targeted with fracking were once out of the reach of developers.
The prices for natural gas have gone down since fracking began, and it has added jobs in areas that sorely needed them, But although energy companies tout the safety of fracking, it has effects on groundwater that are really not understood fully. Hydraulic-fracturing uses tremendous water amounts, as well as some toxic chemicals that are pumped into the underground wells.
Is Fracking Safe?
Some wastewater is also flushed back to the surface, and it is contaminated by underground radiation and the chemicals used in fracking. This water is generally disposed of into deeper injection wells, and local members of the community are concerned about leakage and spills that could affect their drinking water.
People are even more concerned in some cases about the possibility of fracking causing earthquakes. This was determined not to be an issue by the energy companies who are proponents of fracking, but there have been earthquakes in the UK and the US that are linked to fracking. This may occur as a result of the fissures that are opened in the rocks. The tremors have all been small, to date, but scientists are looking more closely at the seismic consequences of hydraulic-fracturing.
Fracking is being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, for these reasons and also to determine whether air pollution is more severe in areas where this type of drilling is used. The energy companies will also be required to disclose the chemicals they use in fracking, although the concentrations are considered proprietary information for each energy company.
Preliminary reports have found contaminated groundwater in some areas, even though the energy companies insist that there is impermeable rock between the water table and the areas where they are drilling. Sometimes, these cases were simply based on poor drilling techniques, and they have not occurred as often as one might think. Fracking is not at risk, because countries need natural gas that is otherwise irrecoverable. But it will be more closely studied as more wells are built around the world.