It concerns the chemicals used during fracturing—or “fracing” as it’s known in industry parlance. “Fracing” basically translates to vast volumes of liquids (typically more than one million gallons a pop) being injected at high pressure into the ground. The idea, and hope, is to split the substrate and “release” the coveted natural gas.
Vital stuff.But, the interesting thing concerns the source of these liquids. Where do they come from? We’ll get to that later. For now, some data:
From 171 known products used (and there are many more), 245 chemicals have been identified. 92% of these are known to cause one or more adverse health effects. Of the 14 products not listed as a health hazard, little or no data exists for 8 of them.More than a third of the 92% are known endocrine disruptors—a fancy way of saying they mimic hormones in the body, and turn processes on and off out of sync with your biology. If you want to glean the power of hormones, which work in miniscule concentrations, check out a pubescent high school kid. Imagine those systems, that make men and women (among other things), run amok.
And there are still more chemicals used which no one knows about. The “unknown unknowns,” as Donald Rumsfeld might say. This is because these chemicals are proprietary, with specific uses as “foamants”, “surfactants”, “lubricants”, and other scientific-sounding names. So no one is obliged to disclose them.But don’t be fooled. Many less-harmful substances could be used to the same effect. That no data exists for some of these “proprietary” chemicals speaks to the amount of research, private or public, done on these things. When you discover who distributes these chemicals, and where they come from, it begins to make more sense. Keep reading. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, based out of Paonia, and headed by an award-winning biologist, puts it this way, in their report of April 4, 2007, titled “Analysis of Chemicals used in Natural Gas Development and Delivery in Colorado”: “In the process of researching the literature, we discovered that drilling companies have access to hundreds of products, the components of which are in many cases unavailable for public scrutiny.” And: “The gas industry claims that 70% of the material it injects underground is retrieved. While the fate of the remaining 30% is unknown, the recovered product is placed in holding pits on the surface and allowed to evaporate. This results in many highly toxic chemicals being released into the air… [and] dispersed into local surface waters."
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Lets have a closer look.Despite harsh trespassing laws, a sample taken from one of 6 evaporation pits in New Mexico revealed a 51-toxic-chemical soup, more than 25 chemicals of which effected all biological systems. (Yes, all biological systems.) The thing to realize here is most of these chemicals don’t have names. They are, ultimately, organic fractions created as a byproduct of a specific industrial process. As such, they change, release daughter compounds, react, and blend with each other, becoming a dynamic toxic movement, rather than a static mix of identifiable chemicals.
So, while at least 30% (and evidence suggests more) of this toxic slurry moves mysteriously through and around the earth, 70% is resurfaced and placed in unregulated evaporating ponds, to basically volatilize… into your back yard. These figures are industry standard. (Although, apparently, no fracing fluids are recovered in Delta county.)Now, one major product of volatile organic compounds, as any environmental scientist knows, is ozone. While stratospheric ozone is beneficial (absorbing UV) tropospheric ozone is no fun at all. Besides corroding rubber and tarnishing silver, it kills foliage indiscriminately and causes irreversible lung damage. According to Dr. Theo Colburn, of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, volatilized ozone from these pits (we’re talking tons, literally tons, of ozone) can travel more than 200 miles.
Would you be surprised to learn that ozone spikes in San Miguel county were measured in 2007 that exceeded those in Denver? Care for a swim in Benzene, Xylene, or Toluene, anyone?Tracking ozone reveals the plumes of toxicity seeping from areas where natural gas is being mined. Areas like just-west-of-Norwood. The effects of endocrine disruptors, which wreak biological havoc at the smallest concentrations (so we have plenty to go round), are absolutely horrible. From rare adrenal cancers to complete neurological failure, to blindness, fainting, lesions, the list goes on (quite literally) ad nauseum.
So, finally, where do these “proprietary” chemicals come from? Who distributes them? And why can’t the gas industry fess up and do some research? Well, I’ll tell you.Halliburton is the distributor of these industry must-haves. Having refined much oil, there are folks out there who just don’t know what to do with their effluents—you know, the fractions of distillation that are no good to anyone; yes, pollutants, essentially, the substances it would cost money to dispose of. We can’t dissolve them all in the gas tank. I know! Why not sell them to those natural gas folks? They’ll put them back in the ground for us. What a great idea.