Fracking is the process of hydraulically injecting a mixture of fluids into naturally forming veins or dikes in rock in order to release petroleum, natural gas, or coal seam gas. The mixture injected is typically a slurry of water, proppants (including silica sand, resin-coated sand, and man-made ceramics), and chemical additives. Additionally, gels, foams, and compressed gases, including nitrogen, carbon dioxide and air can be injected. Further, sometimes sand containing naturally radioactive materials are used to measure the fracture trace. There are also other chemicals that are used at times during the process in order to reduce the viscosity of the fluid so that the gas can flow to the surface more freely. Needless to say, they pump a lot of chemicals into the ground. Once all of these chemicals are injected into the ground and the petroleum, gas, etc is collected the well is flushed with water (sometimes mixed with even more chemicals).
There are a number of issues with the practice of fracking. One is that 1-8 million gallons of water are used to frack a well, and a well can be fracked several times. Some of that water is recovered (sometimes), but whatever water (and chemicals) are not recovered stay in the ground and can work its way into the groundwater. Is that a bad thing? Yes, but organizations like the EPA have had a lot of difficulty proving this because of pressure from the government and industry which has led to negative findings being removed from reports.
In 2004 the EPA put out a study on fracking. An early draft of the study discussed the possibility of dangerous levels of fracking fluid contamination, and mentioned “possible evidence” of aquifer contamination. The final report concluded simply that fracking “poses little or no threat to drinking water”. This just shows how powerful these industries are. Another concern is what is put into the atmosphere during the process. A few examples include particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and VOC’s. The VOC’s that are especially harmful include benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene. Exposure to these chemicals can cause health problems including neurological problems, birth defects, and cancer. Sounds pretty bad right? In addition to all of this, the USGS has said that fracking could be the cause of small earthquakes in the regions where fracking occurs.
Check out this map from Earthjustice.org that shows what they call “fraccidents”. Fraccidents on the map show reports citing contaminated drinking water, polluted air, and instances of mysterious animal deaths: https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states
Nationwide, regulations on fracking are lacking, to say the least. According to a Bloomberg report published at the beginning of March, 65% of the people polled think we need tougher regulations on fracking and the chemicals used. There are some regulations in place to help protect the public from the dangers of fracking, but it is widely believed that these regulations are not enough and have been manipulated by the industry. Regulations are primarily decided state-to-state; the federal government does little to regulate fracking and the chemicals used.
On a more personal note, fracking for oil (vs. gas) has been growing in California(where I’m from) and the government is doing little to regulate the practice. Right now, no one monitors how many fracking operations are going on in CA, and the governing body that is supposed to oversea these types of things, the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, says it has no intention of regulating fracking unless our legislature requires it or they are shown “evidence of manifest damage and harm”. The DOGGR claims that fracking doesn’t occur in Californiavery often, but they really have no idea since they’re not monitoring it. Renee Sharp, the director of the Oakland’s Environmental Working Group says “Today, we can estimate there are several hundred wells being fracked here in California. We don’t know exactly.” The fracking is occurring mostly in Kern, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los AngelesCounties. And fracking isn’t going away in Californiadue to it having the largest oil shale formation in the continental United States, containing 64% of the nation’s deep-rock oil deposits. Help ban fracking in Californiaby signing Food and Water Watch’s petition here: https://action.foodandwaterwatch.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=9760
Until we have full disclosure of the chemicals being put into the ground and better regulations the public has no choice but to be responsible and call for an end to this practice. Our health is worth too much to let this industry manipulate our government into letting it pollute our water and air. Get educated and educate others on this topic, and then let your government know you don’t want fracking in your state.