Water Controversy: Is Fracking Safe & What do Fracking Chemicals do to Your Drinking Water?
Fracking releases flammable chemicals into our water supplies.
Image via JMR Photography (Flickr)
Water Controversy: Is Fracking Safe and What Do Fracking Chemicals Do to Your Drinking Water?
In popular culture, “frack” is a swear word uttered by the characters of the science fiction franchise “Battlestar Galactica.” “Eureka” fans also heard Fargo use it a time or two. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out the actual expletive the word represents. In the real world, however, fracking isn’t the granddaddy of all curse words, but it is just as serious. And when it comes to water controversy, fracking water – with good reason – is at the top of the list. Is fracking safe? No. And this blog post will ask and answer some of the most important questions about fracking water and the fracking chemicals polluting our water supplies.
Q: If it isn’t a swear word in outer space, what is the origin of the word “fracking”?
A: “Fracking” is a linguistic blend of the phrase “hydraulic fracturing.” Hydraulic fracturing is also called “hydrofracking.”
Q: What is hydraulic fracturing?
A: Literally, hydraulic fracturing means breaking something apart with water. In this case, hydraulic fracturing means pumping water underground to destroy bedrock and release the natural gas encased within the rock.
Q: Who uses fracking?
A: The gas industry uses fracking to access the earth’s natural gas source found underground. Fracking is allowed at both the state and federal government levels.
Q: How many states allow fracking?
A: As of 2012, it was reported that 34 states allow fracking. This number is expected to increase, however, as the federal government recently authorized fracking in Texas in an effort to increase its position in the worldwide exportation of natural gas.
Q: Breaking apart rocks with water sounds harmless. Is fracking safe?
A: No. Fracking is not safe. On the surface – if you’ll pardon the pun – it seems perfectly harmless to break apart hard material with pressurized water. After all, it’s only water. What many don’t realize is that sand and toxic chemicals are added to the pressurized water to help break through the rock’s surface.
Q: Wait a minute, it isn’t just water being pumped beneath the earth’s surface to break up the rock?
A: No. Water isn’t enough. It requires a tremendous amount of pressure and some acid to break through rock, so fracking includes additional material to help make harvesting the natural gas easier.
Q: What types of chemicals are used in fracking?
A: That’s a tough question to answer, because former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney pushed through what is known as the “Halliburton loophole,” which, despite both the federal Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts, exempts energy corporations from disclosing the exact chemicals they use during fracking.
Q: Can you give us a clue?
A: Yes. Common water fracking chemicals include hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol, quaternary ammonium chloride, sodium chloride, calcium chloride, isopropanol, methanol, boric acid, and petroleum distillate. This is just a handful of the dangerous chemicals added to the water and sand when fracking. Although, again, the fracking companies are not required to disclose the exact chemical cocktails they add to their drilling water and sand.
Q: So, the fracking companies are pumping water, sand, and these toxic chemicals underground to extract gas from natural bedrock?
A: Yes. Exactly.
Q: How can pumping these chemicals into the earth’s ground be safe?
A: It’s not. Fracking is not only contaminating our water supply, it is also contaminating the air. Now it’s my turn to ask a question beyond the obvious one of is fracking safe? Are you ready to be shocked with some facts?
Q: Yes. Bring it on!
A: Water fracking causes serious groundwater contamination, including gas pollution in the water. There have been more than 1,000 cases of serious groundwater contamination reported at the state level, and citizens have relayed the ability to actually light their tap water on fire, according to journalist Abraham Lustgarten.
Q: How are the chemicals getting into our water supply?
A: Wastewater. The fracking water contamination is not only released into natural water resources, such as streams and rivers, the toxins also evaporate into the air. This is why fracking water also causes air pollution.
Q: So fracking water contamination is harming our air as well?
A: Yes. It has been documented that rural communities, such as Sublette County, Wyoming, now suffer from dangerous ozone levels equivalent to Los Angeles, California. This is primarily due to the heavy water fracking going on in Wyoming right now. The Dallas-Fort Worth area’s smog is not primarily caused by traffic; nope, it’s caused by water fracking contamination.
Q: What are the side effects that result from fracking chemicals?
A: Many of the chemicals used in water fracking, and the resulting wastewater contamination and air pollution, are known to cause numerous types of cancer, including bladder and lung cancer, diabetes, and stroke. Fracking water contamination can also cause birth defects, cognitive defects, and asthma in children. Most frightening? Premature death in both children and adults has been linked to contamination caused by fracking.
Q: Wow. Well, the question “Is fracking safe” has certainly been answered. What can a person do to protect him or herself from fracking water contamination?
A: Filter all of the water coming into your household. You probably already filter your drinking water, but make certain you are using a filter that adequately removes all water contaminants, including fracking water contaminants. Filter your bath and shower water, as well. You don’t want fracking chemicals in your hair or on your skin. Finally, have your outside water tested for toxins to ensure you aren’t releasing fracking water contamination every time you water your lawn.
Q: Is there anything else a person can do to prevent water fracking?
A: Contact your local and state representative and fight for legislation to stop water fracking and protect our drinking water and air.
Please see the following links, which support the information written in this blog and explain the dangers of water fracking further:
- Water Defense: Fracking
- “The Christian Science Monitor”: Does the U.S. Need Federal Fracking Regulations?
- FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry: What Chemicals Are Used [In Fracking]
- Allegheny College, The Bousson Advisory Group: Laws and Regulations, The Halliburton Loophole
- University of Pittsburgh: Environmental Dangers of Fracking
- California State University, Berkeley: New Report Finds California Lags in Fracking Regulations
- Yale University, Yale Environmental Review: Fracking and the Threat of Drinking Water Contamination
- Duke University: Water Well Contamination Near Fracking Operations
Written By: Lynn Taylor