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4 Scary New Finds About Fracking This Week

The bad news just keeps on coming.

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The driver was unhurt but residents were concerned about what the tanker was carrying and if any of it ended up in the creek. Pitcock wrote

While many of the workers on site told curious onlookers that the contents of the tanker could not be disclosed, one resident reported that a worker indicated to them that the tanker was hauling “Friction Reducer” fluid. ...

You can go on the Halliburton or Schlumberger websites and read about some … yes only some, of the chemicals that are used to slick up those well casings. Products such as Dynadrill, CLS, and caustic soda additives, DESCO, and plastic drill beads are just a few of the toxic contaminants that the industry admits to on their website. The rest are “proprietary” as was told to residents who posed the questions while gazing at the tanker lying on its side in our Meathouse Fork tributary.

This is just another example of why “propriety” and “trade secret” are serious threats to public health, and why these massive industrial operations pose real dangers to rural residents. The only ones besides drillers likely to benefit from all of this would law firms like this one which posted a story last year documenting seven fracking-related truck accidents in 12 days in the local area.

3. Shaky Ground

More damning evidence came forward this week linking fracking to earthquakes. Joe Romm at Climate Progress wrote about two new reports being presented at the American Geophysical Union (“Present Triggered Seismicity Sequence in the Raton Basin of Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico” and “Fluid injection triggering of 2011 earthquake sequence in Oklahoma”). As Romm writes, while fracking wells can cause earthquakes, research suggests that most of the earthquakes scientists are now attributing to fracking are the result of taking the brine waste after a well has been fracked and getting rid of it by injecting it underground. (Injection wells are problematic for other reasons besides earthquakes, as well.)   

The abstract from the New Mexico/Colorado study said that their research, “led us to conclude that the majority, if not all of the earthquakes since August 2001 have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane field here.” And the Oklahoma paper found there could be “multi-year lags between the commencement of fluid injection and triggered earthquakes.” 

4. Breathing Uneasy

Here’s a reason why we need more detailed health studies about how drilling sites can affect us and our environment. Lisa Song at InsideClimate News wrote about a new study (peer-reviewed in the journal Human and Ecological Risk Assessment) that found a group of chemicals — non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) — in the air near drilling sites. She writes, “more than 50 NMHCs were found near gas wells in rural Colorado, including 35 that affect the brain and nervous system. Some were detected at levels high enough to potentially harm children who are exposed to them before birth. The authors say the source of the chemicals is likely a mix of the raw gas that is vented from the wells and emissions from industrial equipment used during the gas production process.”

While the results of this study are intriguing and scary, Song says the “study doesn't definitively link the gas fields to the air pollutant” but perhaps it will help bring some more attention to the risks of air pollution from drilling and the need for more research to be done. New York is currently embarking on a health impact assessment of fracking, and a watchdog group of health professionals is working to make sure it’s actually a comprehensive study. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Similar studies are needed all over the country, and as the NMHC study found, health problems can result during any period of the operation, not just while the well is being fracked.

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