Until this year, large oil and gas corporations have successfully hidden the contents of its fracking fluid, the chemicals that is added to water and sand to release oil and gas. All people knew was that it caused health problems and probably deaths from the pollution of water, soil, and air. In 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a law requiring disclosure of these chemicals and established air and water monitoring near fracking sites. This month the state stopped some drilling because it threatened drinking water sources, and officials admitted that they violated federal law because they hadn’t protected water sources from fracking pollution. A report stated that, in addition to excessive amounts of carcinogenic chemicals, the wastewater carried thousands of times more radioactive radium than considered safe by the state’s public health goals. The reporting in some areas is incomplete, and records are missing.
These chemicals cause health problems from headaches and nausea to benign and malignant tumors. Families living near a fracking site in California found black water smelling of sewage pouring out their taps. One woman reported that her dog has cancer and one of her daughters has skin issues. The Golden State Water Company has vouched for the water’s safety although it has not done any tests.
A Texas of University study found 18 times the safe amount of arsenic in U.S. drinking water. The closer the source to fracking sites, the higher the levels of arsenic. Investigators also found excessive amounts of other deadly chemicals such as selenium, strontium, ethanol, and methanol. Toxic chemicals and gas found in Wyoming led to residents being advised to no longer drink tap water or shower/bath in an unventilated room. The EPA research study has been turned over to the state of Wyoming where its funding comes from the company under investigation for the contamination.
The U.S. Geological Survey has also found that fracking is the main reason for the great increase in earthquakes throughout the central United States, something that other studies have long indicated. http://www.care2.com/causes/fracking-confirmed-as-the-cause-of-earthquakes-in-ohio.html From 1975 to 2008, Oklahoma averaged one to three earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater a year. That number began to skyrocket with 564 quakes with a magnitude of 3 or greater in 2014, almost six times as many as the year before. Nineteen were magnitude 4 or over. With a 22,900-percent increase in tectonic events since 2008, Oklahoma now has three times as many earthquakes as California. Oklahoma scientists have known about the link between fracking and earthquakes for at least five years but kept quite to keep in gas and oil industry happy. These earthquakes are moving across the border into Kansas, and a new study again shows that fracking is causing earthquakes in Ohio.
Municipalities in Ohio can also not protect themselves from fracking through local ordinances as New York state has done in the past. The state Supreme Court ruled by a 4-3 vote that the state has “exclusive authority” and that cities and counties can neither ban nor regulate fracking through zoning laws or other restrictions. For now, oil and gas companies have won in Ohio.
Fracking is also rapidly depleting the water supply in the United States. One well requires 4 million gallons, the same consumption as 3,000 families for ten years. The U.S. has 1.1 million wells. Parts of California are suffering the worst drought in 1,200 years, and last year frackers poured more than 3 billion gallons of polluted drinking water into aquifers in just that state.
Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought. Fracking those wells used 97 billion gallons of water, half of this water in Texas which expects to double production in the next five years. In the heart of Texas, local aquifer levels have dropped by up to 300 feet over the last few years, and many west Texas reservoirs are at 25-percent capacity. Twenty-nine communities across Texas could run out of water in 90 days.
After municipalities tired of taking their fracking concerns to a deaf Texas legislature, Denton passed a ban on fracking. Legislators are now trying to move any control to the state where “the expertise is,” according to state Rep. Phil King.
Ohio has also suffered from a number of explosions from fracking. In December 25 families were evacuated for at least three days because of a natural-gas leak that crews couldn’t stop and could explode at any time. Last May, a blowout spilled oil into a Ohio river tributary, a source of drinking water for residents. The next month, a fire at a Halliburton fracking site blew up trucks while thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a Ohio river tributary, killing 70,000 fish. A well rupture in October caused 400 families to be evacuated. That was a few days after a worker at a fracking site was burned and a pipeline ignited several acres of woods. Ohio law doesn’t require fracking companies to reveal the chemicals that they use.
Almost a year ago, Colorado investigated a spike in fetal abnormalities such as low birth weight and congenital heart defects on the state’s western slope near a large number of natural gas wells. Although the state reported that it found no connection between the wells and the fetal abnormalities, glaring gaps existed in their examination, including a lack of water testing. Scientists affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have determined that oil and gas operations on Colorado’s front range are pumping almost seven times more benzene into the air than previously estimated.
Health problems, water shortage, food contamination, earthquakes, explosions—these are a few of the problems from fracking. And there are more:
- Housing Crisis: As a large number of people move to small towns for work at the wells, property owners double or triple the rents, forcing life-long residents to leave their homes.
- More Public Assistance: New money in small towns drives up inflation, leaving formerly self-sufficient people no longer able to provide for themselves.
- Traffic Jams: Trucks making thousands of trips to haul away hazardous material monopolize streets, and emergency vehicles may not get to critical areas in a timely fashion.
- Truck Crashes: Some of the highest rates of vehicle accidents occur in fracking towns, especially on rural roads. Crashes are especially disastrous when trucks carry waste material and natural gas, annually costing fracking counties an additional $28 million.
- Increased Crime and Arrests: Transient natural gas workers tend to cause more trouble; law enforcement officers in fracking towns have reported a 17-percent increase in disorderly conduct arrests.
- Alcoholism: Bored workers with time and money to spend drink more, resulting in a spike in bar brawls and less safe communities. Officers also see a 12-percent jump in public intoxication arrests.
- Sexual Assault: Popular fracking in North Dakota has led to one of the highest single men to women ratios in the country with 20 percent more single men than available women in fracking towns. Spikes in sexual assault cases have led to women being harassed and followed in public.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections: Rural Pennsylvania hospitals found an increase of over 30 percent in rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea after fracking arrived, a 60-percent higher infection rate than in non-fracked areas.
People who live in areas where they don’t directly suffer from air and water issues, proximity to explosions and earthquakes, and loss of land may think that fracking is not their problem. Yet companies are going farther afield to dump radioactive waste, as North Dakota ships it to places such as Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Montana. Even worse is the way that the radioactive waste permeates the entire food and water supply across the nation. Exposed animals and fish have made their way into the food system, and vegetables and fruit are grown in contaminated soil. Eating food contaminated with radium and other heavy metals leads to cancer and other health problems. Fracking is a problem for everyone.