Marcellus Shale Fracking Wastewater Harmful
    By News Staff | May 9th 2012 04:35 PM | 21 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    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


    It would be nice to note that companies drilling in northeast PA are going more for the closed loop fluid recycling system. Used fracking fluid recovered from wells is treated and stored for reuse in other fracing jobs. And now, the chemicals in fracing constitue less than one (1) percent of the fluid. Some 95.2 percent is water and 4.7 percent is white sand.

    Readers should look at the photo used to illustrate this article before taking any comfort from Mr. Green's platitudes about the toxic chemicals being only 1% of what goes into industrial shale gas wells. Not sure the pic shows the fracking stage taking place, but look at all the tanks in similar pictures of fracking operations. (See this home page photo of JUST the chemicals used in a frack job:

    1% of the 4-5 million gallons of water used to frack a well would still fill a container larger than any residential room any reader is sitting in right now. Fill it with unidentified toxic substances, to be sent under pressure, through casings in aquifers that provide drinking water for much of rural Appalachia.

    Closed loop systems still present the same risk to aquifers and threats of surface spills. And until 2015, (when recently enacted EPA regs finally take effect) shale gas development will continue to emit dangerous amounts of methane (and other substances) into the air, often right next to peoples homes.

    ***I suggest that all of the anti-frackers go to this URL to see what god-awful chemicals are used in the fracking process and note on the chart other uses for these chemicals that we all come in contact with or ingest daily

    ***Well are accomplished in four phases: 1) Drills through the ground water and installs the multiple layers of pipe and cement to PREVENT groundwater from being contaminated in any way. 2) Another drill rig is brought in the drill the vertical shaft and install pipe. In northeast PA, that an average of 1 to 1.25 miles deep. 3) ANother, larger drill rig is brought in to made the gentle arc and drill anywhere from 1 to 3 miles horizontally in one direction only. 4) The fracking equipment is brought in...tanks, pumps, compressors, water and sand (96 to 99 percent of the fracking fluid) and chemicals (now mostly 1 percent or less of the fracking fluid in northeast PA. When the fracking is complete, nearly all of the equipment used is hauled away to another site.

    ***The chemicals are indentifed (as per EPA rules). The URL I gave above lists what they are and their other uses.

    ***Everything mankind does on earth poses some risk. Gasoline is sometimes spilled at filling stations; cow poop slurry can be accidentally spilled en masse on the dairy farm and pollute rather than fertilize; etc., ad nauseum. (Refuting unsubstantiated claims is soooo booooring!)

    ***In northeast PA and in central and western NY State, methane is a naturalloy occurring substance that is brought to the surface with springs and water wells. Near Montrose, PA is a briny spring that flows out of the ground and it contains methane bubbles. Hold a match over the well and it will catch fire. (I've done it myself.)

    ***What we need is reasoned facts and debate, not alarmist and unsubstantiated claims designed to alarm for no good reason. But then, there are people who don't want the money, jobs, buildup of supporting businesses, and greater supplies of domestic natural gas which now, because of the fracking boom, is cheaper than ever.

    Gerhard Adam
    But then, there are people who don't want the money, jobs, buildup of supporting businesses, and greater supplies of domestic natural gas which now, because of the fracking boom, is cheaper than ever.
    That's an unwarranted cheap shot.  People have every reason to express concern given how well their interests have been protected over the past decades regarding pollution and toxic materials.  Whether those concerns are warranted does require factual information and it would go a long way towards easing concerns if companies were significantly more transparent regarding their activities.

    Let's remember that the issues regarding incidences from the Exxon Valdez to the BP spill in the gulf occurred DESPITE having regulations and protections in place. 

    While many people will argue or complain that the laws and safety regulations can be onerous on corporations, let's remember that this is what they wanted.  Instead of being responsible, they chose to litigate, so they shouldn't be surprised when the public has learned that lesson well and now wants laws on the books, in advance.
    Mundus vult decipi
    The NRDC is hardly an unbiased source. It has significant liberal environmental ties, including in the current administration. Even the EPA can't make the connection you claim.

    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps before charging bias, you might read the paper.  The paper relates to the issue of the laws that are on the books to protect against contamination.

    This seems like a quite prudent approach to ensure that problems don't occur with increasing amounts of fracking.  Since the industry is already protected from disclosing it's actual chemical mixtures [i.e. proprietary] and is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, it seems reasonable to review how prepared Federal and State agencies are regarding the laws available to protect public interests.

    So unless you're alleging that the paper is lying [although I can't imagine what they could lie about since it's a review of the laws], then your charge of bias is, in fact, biased.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard, fracking has been on the increase since it was  first used in 1948. There are more than a million wells nationwide that have utilized the fracking process, both vertical and horizontal. And, the companies using fracking have fully disclosed the ingredients (now just 1 percent or a little less of the fracking fluid). If you will go to this web site the ingredients are listed along with a chart listing the chemicals' other uses...products we use and INGEST every day:
    Gerhard Adam
    There's nothing disclosed on that site.  Labels like "acid" or "anti-bacterial agent" aren't a disclosure of anything.

    Again, I don't care how many wells there are.  The question is simply whether or not there are adequate regulations to ensure proper handling of problems should they occur.  In mentioning the Exxon Valdez, that isn't to argue that all shipping of oil products is a serious risk.  Similarly we have numerous off-shore wells, and each one isn't going to have a problem like the BP spill.

    The problem is that it only takes one out of millions to create a public nightmare, and it's also important for industry to recognize that a failure in this area will not go well for them.  There's no reason why there shouldn't be high transparency and the necessary safety regulations in place [this is especially true if the risks are extremely low].  After all, with the claim that there is zero risk, it would be foolish in the extreme to resist safety precautions.
    Again, I'm not suggesting that somehow these chemicals are necessarily more or less toxic than others we find in regular use.  However, this again points out the need for full transparency, since the lack of such information simply makes the claims of safety sound contrived.
    Mundus vult decipi
    ***You frickin' anti-frackers are a hoot! Drill, baby, drill!!! BTW, in my neck of the PA woods, driller only use 5 chemicals that constitute less than 1 percent of the total fluid. Big deal! But, I recognize your need to return to an earlier time in America...say before the cotton gin was invented!!??
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, that didn't take long.  Anecdotal comments, no evidence, and then a political sidebar.  Yep ... that's definitely what it takes to advance a convincing argument.
    Drill, baby, drill!
    By all means, knock yourself out.   However, anecdotes don't constitute evidence.  But I do recognize your need to be a cheerleader for industry.  Go, team, go.
    Mundus vult decipi
    ***Anti-frackers are not worth arguing with because they have no credible case. Fracking is no more dangerous than delivering gasoline to a filling station which could pose an environmental threat because gasoline sometimes gets spilled. It's far less dangerous that shipping dangerous chemicals in trucks or by rail because accidents could and have happened and spills have have occurred. I'm sure you're against those practices, too. My friend, the economic benefits, which extend far outside the immediate fracking industry, far outweigh any possible negatives. That fracking is dangerous is nothing more than an empty statement not supported by more than 60 years of succsessful fracking. Not only go, team, go...but drill, baby, drill...make America more energy independent...make America thumb its nose at foreign sources of energy.
    Gerhard Adam
    ...make America more energy independent...
    ...and that perfectly illustrates how little you understand about our energy problems.  America will NEVER be energy independent during our lifetimes.  If they dug up or drilled the entire continent, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.

    Actually, I'm willing to bet, you don't even know who our primary energy suppliers are.   More importantly, I'll bet you even think that the energy the companies obtain here necessarily goes to the U.S. markets.
    Yeah, drill, baby drill.  At least we know the Japanese can afford it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    ***Of course we won't be independent soon because of liberal left politicians...mostly Democrats...who are working on a vision of one world government under the United Nations. Obama just signed another executive order which will give the UN some measure of control over land use in the U.S.

    ***Canada is our leading supplier of oil and natural gas. Saudi Arabia and Argentine, along with Mexicon, are down the list. That said, America has more proven reserves of gas and oil under its territory than any other nation has, but Obama and his EPA are working diligently to keep us from developing our own resources to its fullest potential.

    ***And I know that excess American resources are exported to many countries on the Pacific Rim...and that's the free enterprise system at work. But, the more we need to depernd on our own resources means potentially less is exported.

    ***If you don't have solar for heating, or a heat pump, I sugfgest looking into clean-burning natural gas for your home. It's dirt cheap. In northeast PA, the average homeowner who has switched from oil to natural gas is aving nearly $1600 over the winter. BTW, in my area that's mostly fracked natural gas!! Oh, don't let me forget to mention...a group of businessmen are exploring ways to establish natural gas filling stations for cars they switch from gasoline (and its corrosive ethanol additive), to natural gas.

    ***Here's hoping we get a regime change in D.C. this November. America is becoming a second rate country under the present Premier in the White House.
    Gerhard Adam
    Here's hoping we get a regime change in D.C. this November...
    Oh yes, after all three years of Obama took away the greatness that 8 years of a Republican presidency failed to address.  Oh wait ... Bush didn't actually do anything to improve that situation did he?  But, then it's easier to just blame Obama than to recognize a long litany of failed presidencies.

    Again, I will readily bet that if a Republican gets into office it won't change a thing.  Just as things didn't change under Bush 1 or Bush 2, I can guarantee they won't change under the next Republican administration [well maybe the deficit will get higher].

    So, let's see we had 8 years of Reagan, 4 years of Bush 1 and 8 years of Bush 2, so we've had 20 years of Republican presidents.  We've had 11 + years of Democratic presidents.  Hmmmm .... I wonder what happened to our energy independence?

    You may think you're being clever by referring to the current administration as a "regime" or the president as "Premier".  However, it simply illustrates your political naivete.  In the first place, I could certainly argue that the office deserves respect regardless of what you think of the individual in it [but that little piece seems to be missing from modern dialogues].  What is truly naive, is anyone that thinks that there is a marked difference between Democrats and Republicans. 

    Whether you like it or not, Obama was duly elected, and it would behoove people to begin to recognize that this isn't about them getting their own way all the time so that they can perpetually talk trash about the opposition.  I get it ... people have different opinions, but I have no use for people that choose to disrespect the overall offices of government simply because they want to behave like spoiled brats.  Grow up ...
    Mundus vult decipi
    ***You can have the last word, I'm too much of a freedom loving libertarian constitutionalist to be bothered arguing with a socialist. You're personal attack ("grow up") is about all liberal progressives have...
    Gerhard Adam
    That's a hoot.  Everything about you is a personal attack whether it is on me, people that believe differently than you, or the president himself.  That's part of the illusion, isn't it.  You claim freedom, and then immediately create an argument to deny it in anyone that has an opposing opinion [they become the enemy].

    Yeah, I know exactly what kind of government people with your beliefs support.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Not so fast. The well-known Gerhard's Corollary says no argument is finished until the opposing commenter makes fun of his hat.
    ***I have all due respect for the Office of the Presidenty, but anyone endorsed for election or re-election by the Communist Party U.S.A. for, exemplfying Marxist ideals gets absolutely NO respect from me. And, you and anyone else has the freedom and right to be the enemy of freedom and the Constitution. Finaly, people like me support the government as established by the Founding Fathers. If any of thosee brilliant Christiansw were alive today they would surely die from shock at what America has become...everything they stood against. Peace to you, my progressive leftie friend. I fear the terror of the American future my grandchildren may have to endure unless we get back to Founding Principles.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, I can see you feel quite comfortable speaking for both sides.  So, now I'm the "enemy of freedom"? 

    In any case ... at least now people will get a chance to read your comments and recognize exactly what kind of beliefs you hold.  It's a far better argument than I could ever have made.
    Mundus vult decipi
    ***I am absolutely proud to be a libertarian and a Constitutionalist, and a proponent of returning to the government created by the God-fearing Founding Fathers.
    ***Drill, baby, drill for America's greater glory and future!!!
    ***Not to worry, Hank. I have such a hat and wouldn't think of making fun of Gerhard's.