Hydraulic fracturing is a process that involves the underground injection of tens of thousands to six million gallons of water per well. The water is laced with toxic chemicals and sand or other material known as “proppant.” The fluid creates fractures in underground formations and the proppant holds these fractures open, allowing oil and gas to flow up the drilling pipe (EPA Fracturing Final 2004 ES-11, Schein 2008, Burnett and Vavra 2006).
EPA considered hydraulic fracturing as exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act following the act’s passage in 1974 (LEAF v. EPA 1997, EPA Fracturing Final 2004). The act sets standards and requires permits for the underground injection of hazardous substances so that these materials do not endanger Underground Sources of Drinking Water (SDWA 2008).
Who will protect our environment? It seems like there is always some trade off for the lesser evil. Providing jobs is a good thing, but should it be at the expense of our natural resources? What benefit is a well paying job if you have no clean water, or destroy the environment in the process?
Recently while in a local restaurant in Marion County, I overheard a young man telling about his new job with an oil drilling company. Working in the Seven Pines area, he said his main job was to pick up fish. I thought that sounded strange. Apparently, they were drilling near a lake, and some of the gas or “proppant” had escaped through the cracks and into the lake. He said, when that happens, it kills all of the fish. His job was to pick up as many fish as he could before anyone sees and if someone does see him, he was to say he was “taking water samples.”
Of course, he’s a young guy, had a new little family with him, he is happy to have the great income that kind of job provides. He probably feels there are plenty of fish in this world and has little concern for the environment at this point in his life. Why is there no inspector or regulatory agency nearby to witness this? Where are the checks and balances for this activity?
Stories from the drilling industry about horizontal fracking not endangering the environment are clearly not true. You and I are the protectors of our environment. Chemicals involved in drilling are known to cause cancer, birth defects, and neurological disorders. It is frightening to think about our dwindling water supply being infused with toxic chemicals to bore into the earth. Our future may hold toxic water everywhere and not a drop to drink.