A new paper by Natural Resources Defense Council says hydraulic fracturing (fracking) generates massive amounts of polluted wastewater in in the Marcellus Shale that threatens the health of drinking water supplies, rivers, streams, and groundwater - and that federal and state regulations have not kept pace with the dramatic growth of fracking and must be strengthened to reduce the risks of health issues throughout the Marcellus region.
Their paper contends the wastewater contains potentially harmful pollutants, including salts, organic hydrocarbons, inorganic and organic additives and naturally occurring radioactive material. These pollutants can be dangerous if they are released into the environment or if people are exposed to them. They can be toxic to humans and aquatic life and can damage ecosystem health by depleting oxygen or causing algal blooms, or they can interact with disinfectants at drinking water plants to form cancer-causing chemicals.
Condensed from their paper:
Natural gas is found in underground layers of rock and shale gas formations are generally tighter and much less permeable than other formations, causing the gas to flow less easily. The Marcellus is the largest shale gas area in the United States by geographic area, spanning New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Shale gas sources generally require more complex and expensive technologies for production and are termed 'unconventional' compared to more conventional drilling for oil. Other sources of unconventional gas include coal seams and impermeable sandstone formations. As of 2008, unconventional production accounted for 46 percent of total U.S. natural gas production.
Like food production, energy production is not pretty. Credit: NRDC
Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of liquid under pressure to fracture the rock formation
and prop open the fractures, allowing natural gas to flow more freely from the formation into the
well for collection. The development of hydraulic fracturing technology, along with advances
that allow the horizontal drilling of wells, has facilitated the expansion of shale gas development
over the past 20 years. Prior to these innovations, shale gas development was not viewed as
economically feasible, but recently such development has exploded. The first economically
producing wells in the Marcellus were drilled in 2003; in 2010, 1,386 Marcellus wells were
drilled in Pennsylvania alone (up from 763 drilled in 2009).
The liquids used in the hydraulic fracturing process consist primarily of water, either fresh or
recycled, along with chemicals used to modify the water’s characteristics (for example, to reduce
friction or corrosion) and sand or other agents, referred to as “proppants,” that hold open the
fractures in the formation.
Wastewater, flowback and production phase water, contain potentially harmful constituents and the NRDC says the current regulatory approach is in adequate and their paper outlines limitations of current state and federal policies.
"In Fracking’s Wake: New Rules are Needed to Protect Our Health and Environment from Contaminated Wastewater", Rebecca Hammer and Jeanne VanBriesen, Ph.D., PE, NRDC
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Amenhotep III: Ancient Egyptian Mummies Didn't Have Spinal Arthritis
- More Electricity In Developing Nations Had Little Impact On Climate Change
- From Mindless Physics To Physics Of Mind
- Ebola Transmission Via Public Transport
- #GAMERGATE Style Harassment Does Not Happen in the Male Dominated Sciences
- 24 hours with Windows 10 on a Surface Pro 3
- How Mitochondria Began - Parasitic Coevolution Gets A New Wrinkle
- "I was think more along the lines of using one to install a web cam(s) into your fridge so you can..."
- "The first paragraph of your response is describing an ecological correlation, which I acknowledged..."
- "Robert H. Olley, Let's have a big party, maybe Thomas Dunkan's relatives being declared Ebola free..."
- "Nice bit of news for us all:Ebola crisis: Nigeria set to be declared free of virusRead about the..."
- "But it never stands still, how is that boring. To stagnate within a belief like religion that does..."
- Saving bees requires less pesticides, changing farming
- Could GM plants replace airport security scanners?
- In a battle of brains, chimpanzees match human toddlers
- ‘Urban farmers’ behind GMO labeling initiatives
- ‘Designer cells’ produce disease treating antibodies
- Hawaii’s anti-GMO and anti-pesticide measures analyzed
- Genetic variant protects some Latina women from breast cancer
- Blind cave fish may provide insight on eye disease and other human health issues
- Head Start program benefits parents
- Heart rate may predict survival and brain function in comatose cardiac arrest survivors
- Study shows medication is frequently, unintentionally given incorrectly to young children