Fracking frees up gas in deep geologic formations such as the Marcellus and Utica shales that have spawned the current drilling frenzy. Also held there are ancient marine waters and naturally occurring toxic substances that are not a problem when segregated by a mile or more from the earth's surface and fresh groundwater zones. Fracking disturbs, distributes, and carries upward with the fracked gas "produced waters" containing radioactive materials, heavy metals, hydrocarbons such as BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and toluene), bromide, highly concentrated salts, and many other organic and inorganic compounds that, when exposed to our environment, are dangerous health hazards--many are known carcinogens and toxic to biological life. The chemicals added to the injected frack fluid obviously compound the problem, but even if companies were to switch to "green," non-toxic fracking fluids, drilling and fracking in these deep formations will always deliver potentially deadly chemical hazards, even in a perfectly regulated world.
A recognized problem this poses is that each fracked well produces millions of gallons of highly contaminated wastewater, yet there are no currently operating facilities that remove all of these pollutants. Less understood is that fracking is destroying our groundwater, and there is no way to prevent it. Drilled wells provide pathways for these contaminants to rise under pressure and mix with freshwater aquifers, causing these deep geology pollutants to mingle with shallow groundwater. The cement and steel casings used and the plugging methods for post-production gas wells do not isolate methane, other dangerous gases, and pressure-driven contaminated fluids from the aquifer. The zonal isolation will be breached either instantly due to poor construction; in a period of years, due to harsh downhole conditions eating away the cement and steel; or, if best available technology is employed, within 80 to 100 years--it is not a question of "if," it is a question of "when." The industry is well aware of this, as are regulators. Apparently, they have decided to sacrifice our groundwater.
Our drinking water and the springs that provide the base flow of our streams and rivers originate from these aquifers. Less than 1 percent of the earth's water is potable and, due to other (some related) influences, it is vanishing still. Once our groundwater is contaminated, it is ruined, not only for us but for uncounted future generations. What calculated benefit could possibly make this a good idea?
About Tracy Carluccio Deputy Director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Jon Olson Associate Professor in the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin
Daniel Simmons Director of State Affairs at the Institute for Energy Research
Chris Faulkner Founder, President, and CEO of Breitling Oil and Gas
Lee Fuller Vice President of Government Relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America