Potential Health Impacts Related to Fracking [Subscription req’d] by Russell A. Wilke, MD, PhD (Department of Internal Medicine, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, Sioux Falls) and Jerome W. Freeman, MD (Department of Neurosciences, University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, Sioux Falls) November 7, 2017, Journal American Medical Association Vol 318, No 17, doi:10.1001/jama.2017.14239
Cross-contamination between fracking flowback and drinking water must be avoided
[“Must be avoided” Reality Check:
Encana didn’t give a damn about direct contamination of drinking water used by the Rosebud community, never mind cross-contamination! Encana illegally diverted water without a permit and injected 18 million litres of frac fluid directly into the community’s drinking water aquifers, all enabled by the law violating regulators: Alberta Energy Regulator and Alberta Environment, and Alberta Environmental NGOs and politicians.
Refer to the cross references linked below for more examples of how companies and regulators don’t give a damn about protecting people and groundwater from toxic frac chemicals and or waste
End “Must be avoided” Reality Check ]
… Because the process of fracking these shales has increased the relative role of the continental United States in the worldwide production of oil and natural gas, it is increasingly important to understand the potential implications of this technology on the
health of individuals and the US population.
… Beforea new well can begin production, each site undergoes months of preparation. Steps include preparation of the drilling pad,vertical drilling operations (often >1mile deep), horizontal extension of the well (often >1 mile laterally), and fracking. Preparation of each well can therefore take months, and caremust be taken tomonitor local air quality
and ground water quality.
Each step has the potential to influence the health of local residents.
Fracking and Air Quality
The relationship between fracking and air quality is important to understand because of the influence of air quality on acute and chronic respiratory illness.2,3 Asthma exacerbations can be triggered by small changes in air quality (eg,airborne particulates, ozone, and exhaust from equipment used for drilling and transport). In communities overlying the Marcellus shale, well production rates have recently been associated with the frequency of asthma exacerbations. Using data from a large electronic medical record representing more than 400000 primary care patients in Pennsylvania, investigators observed that 5935 patients with asthma who lived near low-production wells were more likely to initiate a new oral corticosteroid than 5713 frequency-matched nonasthmatic controls living in the same region (odds ratio [OR], 1.28 [95% CI, 1.13-1.46]), and patients with asthma who resided near high production wells were even more likely to initiateaneworalcorticosteroid (OR,4.43 [95% CI, 3.75-5.22]).2
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also raised concern about the long-term respiratory effects of occupational exposure to airborne [It’s often mighty windy in Alberta] silica at fracking sites.4 Because silicosis can be associated with systemic autoimmune processes, workers exposed to crystalline silica from the high quantities of sand used during fracking will need to be monitored longitudinally for lung disease as well as adverse effects on multiple organ systems.
Fracking Fluid and Potential Toxic Exposures
Fracking fluid contains water, sand (silicates), and a proprietary mixture of chemicals that vary by company and site. Silicates are added as a proppant to keep fractures in the shale open. Acids are added to solubilize some of the common minerals in the shale, and surfactants are added to aid in fracture penetration. Millions of gallons of this fluid are injected into each well at high pressures sufficient to fracture rock, and millions of gallons of wastewater (ie, flowback) return to the surface and contain heavy metals (eg, barium, manganese, and iron), radioactive materials (eg, radium), and organic compounds (eg, benzene, toluene,xylenes, oil, and grease).1 This flowback is then either reused (recycled for additional fracking), evaporated in surface pools, or transported [or dumped into sewers, rivers, lakes, on public roads, farm fields, etc, see photos below] and injected into deeper disposal wells. At present, as much as 95% of the wastewater generated by fracking is injectedintodisposalwells.5Due to thepotential toxicityof thiswastewater, monitoring the depth and geological location of these disposal wells is important.
[Alberta Waste Water Disposal Reality Check:
Oilfield waste dumping (days after the dumping, the waste on the road was still black and reeked of diesel) on a public road in Rocky View County, Alberta Canada – LIPG member company, NAL, attempted to clean their mess up as a ‘good neighbor’ gesture.
Alberta’s Energy Regulator (AER) did not inspect the dumping, even after citizens reported it. AER avoiding inspections of law violations by oil companies is intentional If AER doesn’t inspect intentional dumping of toxic waste by oil companies, AER can claim such incidents haven’t happened, to better enable the polluters.
Spray by oil companies on public roads in winter in frac’d area of the Lochend, Rocky View County, Alberta (just NE of oil town Calgary). Companies and officials claim the spay is to control dust. Snow packed, gravel roads do not require dust control.
Above three photos by FrackingCanada
End Alberta Waste Water Disposal Reality Check ]
Acids are routinely added to the fracking mix, and low pH mobilizes heavy metals from the rock into which the fracking mix is injected.6 Environmental heavy metals are nephrotoxic,and changes in renal function associated with human exposure to fracking flowback will need to be studied longitudinally. A recent series of intentional ingestions of fracking fluid7 associated with acute methanol intoxication highlights the need for studying the health effects of unintentional ingestion, such as may occur through the inadvertent contamination of drinking water. Heavy metals are also potentially neurotoxic. In the central nervous system, manganese has a high affinity for the basal ganglia where it increases risk of parkinsonism.
In the peripheral nervous system, mercury has a high affinity for the dorsal root ganglia, and elevated blood mercury levels have been documented in patients with idiopathic neuropathy.8 Because methyl mercury is amore potent neurotoxin than inorganicmercury, the effect of fracking activity on biodiversity and mercury organification (conversion to methyl mercury by aquatic microorganisms) is being quantified in watersheds overlying some large shale formations.9
Given the large volume of flowback generated by fracking, water quality requires ongoing monitoring. [Experts keep urging that, but, companies and regulators continue to make sure it’s not happening anywhere frac’ing is taking place. They do not want any damning proof frac’ing is contaminating drinking water on a mass scale]
Cross-contamination between fracking flowback and drinking water must be avoided. More than 10% of the US population obtains drinking water from nonpublic water supplies, including private water wells that supply drinking water to a residence.1 In 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency published a report outlining factors that are more likely than others to result in more frequent or severe adverse effects.1
Use of drinking water for fracking should be minimized in times or areas of low water availability, and the following also should [why not write “must?”] be avoided: spills during management of fracking fluid, injection of fracking fluid into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, injection of fracking fluid directly into groundwater [which is what Encana did at Pavillion Wyoming and Rosebud Alberta, with regulators and cowardly politicians only protecting the polluter and abusing the harmed citizens], discharge of inadequately treated wastewater into surfacewater, and disposal or storage of wastewater in unlined pits that have not been lined with an impermeable base.1
Close attention to these safeguards could help to reduce health risks among individuals during expansion of this key energy resource.
Safeguards (eg, cement well casings and deep re-injection wells) exist to keep fracking flowback separate from the surface and groundwater sources that provide drinking water. [But, companies are intentionally injecting their toxic frac waste directly into drinking water aquifers, enabled by regulators and selling it to farmers to irrigate food eaten by humans!]
Ongoing oversight by the petroleum industry and regulatory agencies should help mitigate potential health problems (such as parkinsonism, neuropathy, and kidney disease) that could occur with cross-contamination of drinking water and subsequent exposure to toxic substances from fracking fluids. With the widespread implementation of electronic medical records, health systems are in a position to prospectively monitor toxicity end points in observational cohorts. [Emphasis added]
Published Online: October 16, 2017.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Both authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none were reported.
Funding/Suport: Dr Wilke reports funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (1U01HG007253).
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The NIH did not play a role in the preparation, review, or approval of the current manuscript, nor did it influence the authors’ decision to submit the manuscript for publication. Additional Contributions: The authors thank Toni LeVasseur (Department of Internal Medicine, University of South Dakota), for assistance with editing, and Eric Dalseide (Visual Communications Specialist for Health Affairs, University of South Dakota), for assistance with the construction of the Figure. Neither individual was compensated in association with their contribution to this article.
1. US Environmental Protection Agency. Hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas: impacts from the hydraulic fracturing water cycle on drinking water resources in the United States. http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-12/documents/hfdwa_executive_summary.pdf. Accessed August 30, 2017.
2. Rasmussen SG, Ogburn EL, McCormack M, et al. Association between unconventional natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale and asthma exacerbations. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(9):1334-1343.
3. Moitra S, Puri R, Paul D, Huang YC. Global perspectives of emerging occupational and
environmental lung diseases. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2015;21(2):114-120.
4. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Worker exposure to silica during hydraulic fracturing. http://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts /hydraulic_frac_hazard_alert.html. Accessed
August 30, 2017.
5. Shrestha N, Chilkoor G, Wilder J, Gadhamshetty V, Stone JJ. Potential water resource impacts of hydraulic fracturing from unconventional oil production in the Bakken shale. Water Res. 2017; 108:1-24.
6. Wang L, Burns S, Giammar DE, Fortner JD. Element mobilization from Bakken shales as a function of water chemistry. Chemosphere. 2016; 149:286-293.
MUST READ! 7. Collister D, Duff G, Palatnick W, Komenda P, Tangri N, Hingwala J. A methanol intoxication outbreak from recreational ingestion of fracking fluid. Am J Kidney Dis. 2017;69(5): 696-700.
8. Latov N, Kumar G, Vo ML, et al. Elevated blood mercury levels in idiopathic axonal neuropathy. JAMA Neurol. 2015;72(4):474-475.
9. Grant CJ, Lutz AK, Kulig AD, Stanton MR. Fracked ecology: response of aquatic trophic
structure and mercury biomagnification dynamics in the Marcellus Shale Formation. Ecotoxicology. 2016;25(10):1739-1750.
[Refer also to:
2005 07 25: British Columbia’s Lax Code for Discharging Coalbed Methane Pollution into Rocky Mountain Headwaters Was Co-Authored by Gas Driller, EnCana Resumes Elkford CBM Project as a Weak Provincial ‘Code of Practice’ Comes into Effect Permitting Discharge of Contaminated Wastewater into Classified Trout Streams
2012 06 08: North Dakota Turns Blind Eye to Dumping of Fracking Waste in Waterways and Farmland, Releases of drilling and fracking waste, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands
2012 08 15: Toxic Wastewater Dumped in Streets and Rivers at Night: Gas Profiteers Getting Away With Shocking Environmental Crimes, Allan Shipman was found guilty of illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater. But he’s part of a much bigger problem
2012 09 20: The Earth’s invisible dump, With more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic waste having been injected into the inner earth, what happens if our belief that what goes down can’t come up is wrong?
2014 02 19; With law violations, hazards, waste dumping, air noise land water pollution, permanent water loss, community division, adverse health impacts, lies, fatalities, enabling regulators politicians courts, massive subsidies, PR Panel urges industry to change frac ‘conversation’
2015 02 10: How regulators “regulate” to make fracing safe: Let industry inject toxic frac waste into federally protected drinking water aquifers; “Levels of benzene up to 700 times federal standard have been found in waste water from fracking”
2015 02 15: Chemical explosions at Santa Clara Waste Water (treats, recycles, disposes waste from industrial sites), Suing insurer for $7 million; 55 injured after ‘bizarre’ chemical explosion in Santa Paula: “We just don’t know what this cocktail was”
2015 02 11: If injected industry waste pollutes your groundwater, can you sue for trespass? Texas Supreme Court Justices “found a way to avoid issuing that opinion that could have had huge economic and political implications” … “The impacts to the oil and gas industry would be huge.”
2015 03 03: California now says 2,500 wells dumping frac waste into protected aquifers, up from 532 in February. Regulators order oil drillers including Chevron Corp. and Linn Energy LLC to halt operations at 12 injection wells (two were issued cease and desist orders) because they may taint groundwater suitable for drinking and irrigation
Cumulative Illegal Toxic Frac Impacts? Encana dumping waste at Rosebud, Alberta in 2012, just east of where the company illegally fractured the community’s drinking water aquifers in 2004. Do you see a regulator? An inspector?
Do you see frac-pimp (urging monitoring to protect groundwater that the experts know isn’t happening) hydrogeologist Dr John Cherry anywhere?
Where are the regulators? In bed with the polluters, all without condoms.
2016 02 24: Aethon Energy (recently purchased Encana’s holdings in Moneta Divide oil & gas field) wants regulator to deregulate protected Madison aquifer to inject 365 million barrels of toxic drill & frac waste
This move paves the way for offshore fracking permits that were previously frozen and the dumping of toxic wastewater directly into the Pacific Ocean.[Emphasis added]
This explanation by BSEE presents a whole other set of environmental issues that the public should be outraged about when it comes to fracking in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. “One of those being that after those fracking chemicals were cycled back to Shell’s rig, Shell eventually dumped those chemicals right back overboard into the Gulf. This in spite of no testing having been done to determine the impacts to the marine environment and ultimately human health as a possible consequence of eating Gulf seafood.”
Shell has a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency to dump a certain amount of the fracking chemicals overboard with water that’s produced during oil processing operations. That water is regularly tested to prove that it is not polluted beyond the limits established by the permit.
“The dumping of fracking chemicals into the Gulf is standard operating procedure by Shell and every other operator engaged in this extremely high-risk extraction, and BSEE lets it happen,” Henderson said. So, whether it was via the spill or the overboard permit, “either way those fracking chemicals ended up in the Gulf. [Emphasis added]
“State oil regulators’ disturbing proposal to sacrifice dozens of aquifers to the oil industry is an enormous threat to California’s water supplies,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney with the CBD. “The federal EPA must stop this incredibly foolish plan to let oil companies dump polluted waste fluid into these underground water sources.”
… But it is possible to approximate. “It looks like there are roughly 48 oil fields that will be proposed for exemption through 60 applications (some fields have multiple applications),” Kretzmann added.
In other words, DOGGR is pushing for exemptions for the majority of injection wells that DOGGR itself has admitted are illegal.
“Rather than protect these groundwater resources, DOGGR is giving them away to the oil companies,” Kretzmann said. [Horrified emphasis added]
2016 06 12: Meet Alberta’s Radioactive Ranchers: Nielle and Howard Hawkwood. Timing is everything. Why did AIMCo (ATB/Heritage Fund connected) announce $200 Million (bailout?) investment in “Quite leveraged” Calfrac on same day NDP Rural Caucus try to get Nielle Hawkwood’s frac ban resolution on floor of NDP’s Annual Convention?
2016 06 14: Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd deflecting the known frac risks and harms? Says “fracking affects regions differently,” wants to “wait until we get the science going” before making any decisions even though the science on fracing is already in
An excellent comment to Nikiforuk’s article on Alberta’s Radioactive Ranchers, the Hawkwoods & Energy Minister McQuaig
annie_fiftyseven • June 15, 2016
Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Hawkwood and Mr. Nikiforuk for this article.
“But according to a government response to questions from The Tyee, the ‘flowback emissions study underway within the [regulator] will focus on characterizing the chemical composition of gaseous emissions from hydraulically fractured wells in the Cardium formation and will include NORM analysis.’”
Perfect, since the Alberta government seems keen on ignoring the massive amount of publicly available scientific literature on the numerous health harms attributed to the unconventional frac frenzy, I say they get their NDP science going, evacuate the residents and set-up Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd in a nice little pup-tent near to those operations.
And maybe they could bring along some certified health professionals to check-in on her while the emissions fill her cozy abode, and she consumes the water below. That way, the regulator, who has no public health mandate, could kill two birds with one frac’d stone; characterizing the emissions and analyzing the NORM, AND, observe how a human body, such as an energy minister, responds to all those toxics and radiation. And then make the results public.
And perhaps they could eventually place the entire NDP government throughout the other carpet-bombed areas, to determine the cumulative effects of “2,364,534 M3/YEAR FLOWBACK” (2.4 billion litres/year flowback) – with more to come.
I definitely think this would give McCuaig-Boyd, the NDP government, and the rest of us, a much better understanding of how “fracking affects regions [and politicians] differently.”
“Alberta New Democrats walked away from a serious discussion about fracking last weekend, prompting accusations that the party was stifling debate to placate industry – a charge that the Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd rejected.
… ‘From my viewpoint, it was a pretty fair process,’ she said. ‘From my perspective, I want fracking to be looked at from a scientific perspective. It’s not like we’re ignoring things.’
Energy Minister McCuaig-Boyd wants to ‘get the science going’ on fracking.
She added that fracking affects regions differently, and that she wanted to ‘wait until we get the science going,’ before making any decisions.”
She said her department had a scientific review underway.
‘It’s a huge issue, we all care about that. We all want good water, good air. I’ve said from the beginning, you can extract oil and gas from Alberta and you can still be environmentally responsible. I don’t see it as an either or,’ McCuaig-Boyd said.”
I wonder how McCuaig-Boyd’s tissues will react to products of reactions between different secret frac additives, among all the other crap, but that one should prove especially interesting. She needs to bed-down there for awhile, and then pop over to BC with her tent and entourage for more testing.
“Because the characteristics of flowback fluids changes with time, it is important that the characterization of flowback characteristics include a time series of analyses over the flowback period.
… Sampling programs have identified the typical components of shale gas fracturing flowback fluids. While proportions vary among formations, there is a consistent list of core components.
The range of total dissolved constituents varies from 10,000 – 250,000 mg/L; the salinity ranges are similar, pH typically ranges between 5.0 – 8.0, and most flowback contains:
– Additives used in fracturing.
– Products of reactions between different additives.
– Substances mobilized from within the formation.
– Substances contributed by multiple sources.
Flowback components detected in one set of analytical results included:
– Components of fracturing fluid.
– Dissolved solids (chlorides, sulfates, calcium).
– Metals (calcium, magnesium, barium, strontium).
– Suspended solids.
– Mineral scales (calcium carbonate; barium sulfate).
– Bacteria (acid producing bacteria; sulfate reducing bacteria).
– Friction reducers.
– Iron solids (iron oxide; iron sulfide).
– Dispersed solids (clay fines, colloids, silts).
– Acid gases (carbon dioxide; hydrogen sulfide).
Since flowback components are influenced by many different factors, they may vary over time.
Limited time-series field data from Montney Shale flowback, taken at different times, showed:
– Increased concentrations of total dissolved solids, chloride, and barium.
– Increased radioactivity levels.
– Increased calcium and magnesium hardness.
– Increased concentrations of iron – controlling additives were not used.
– Decreased sulfate levels.
– Decreased alkalinity levels (likely due to acid use).
– Increased metal concentrations.
Fracturing fluids pumped into the well and materials mobilized within the shale contribute to changes in hardness, sulfate, and metals. Specific changes depend on the shale formation, the fracturing fluids used, and fracture operations control.
While some fracturing fluid additives are consumed in the well (e.g. strong acids) or react during fracturing to form different products (e.g. polymer precursors), most additives will be present in flowback water.
The Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) identified several flowback components as significant environmental concerns:
– High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).
– Gelling Agents.
Other additives of concern not identified in the GEIS include corrosion inhibitors, friction reducers, and microbiocides.
… Although most of the shale gas basins have not identified H2S as being a significant problem, the presence of H2S in both source water and flowback water has been a significant issue in the Horn River. Reports indicate that H2S has been measured in waters originating in the Debolt Formation at concentrations ranging from 200 mg/L up to 8000 mg/L with an average concentration of 5000 mg/L. In addition, flowback water with concentrations in the order of several hundred mg/L has been encountered.”
Oh, and while they’re at it, maybe they could do us all a favour and have independent scientists “analyze” the NORMs in the astronomical amount of produced water flowing through our provinces as well – “2,500,000 M3/DAY” (2.5 billion litres per day) – and more to come.
“Currently, there are no regulations for NORM management in Canada, however, the ERCB provides guidelines outlining NORM waste disposal options in Directive 058: Oilfield Waste Management Requirements for the Upstream Petroleum Industry.
The largest-volume oil and gas waste stream that contains NORMs is produced water. At this time, the radium content of produced water going to injection wells is not regulated.”
ps. For the NDP’s next diversion, I think they should do their own study on the effects of smoking on kids from pre-school to grade 12. Just pick a school in Alberta and get the kids puffing. You never know, perhaps smoking will affect Alberta kids “differently,” than the rest of the world. They might just be able to smoke AND be safe. No either/or there, and it never hurts to try.
Feb 9, 2016 Vote: Aethon Energy (recently purchased Encana’s holdings in Moneta Divide oil & gas field) wants regulator to deregulate protected Madison aquifer to inject 365 million barrels of toxic drill & frac waste
2016 03 16: Frac Waste Quakes Make Time Magazine: The U.S.’s New Earthquake Capital: Oklahoma. “Some seismologists say that even if all disposal activity stopped in the state immediately, there could be earthquakes for decades.” [How much toxic waste contaminates drinking water aquifers every time frac’ing or frac waste disposal causes earthquakes?]
2016 06 11: Massachusetts Senate Passes 10-Year Moratorium on Fracking and Disposal of Frac Wastewater in the Commonwealth. Senate President: “Fracking releases harmful chemicals into our air while contaminating fresh groundwater, causing seismic events, flaring methane and severely harming public health.”
2016 06 15: Will waste water kill fracing? EPA bans disposal of frac waste at public treatment plants. Injecting it causes seismicity, recycling it is costly, using it to irrigate and landspraying it contaminates food, dumping it into waterways kills fish, pits filled with it leak, breathing it in aerosols corrodes lungs. What will companies do with it?
2016 06 15: UK fracking firm plans to dump likely radioactive frac waste into the sea, Ineos company emails reveal huge amounts of frac waste need to be dumped, Legal update from Tina Louise, Opposition to UK fracking plans swells, Local democracy at stake
2016 06 16: The Most Horrific Frac Deregulation Yet? US EPA preparing for “widespread” radioactive frac waste contamination of drinking water or because it’s already happened? EPA’s proposed “protective regulation” to allow dramatically higher levels of radioactivity in drinking water
2016 07 07: That’s some frac moratorium Quebec! Ottawa (DFO has jurisdiction) not consulted on Anticosti fracking plan to use water from endangered salmon rivers, frac waste will be dumped into Gulf of St. Lawrence
2017 03 31: Justice & Illegal Dumping for all? Investigation reveals oil & gas drilling waste dumped illegally (even after told to stop) at multiple Fayette County locations, including Magisterial District Judge Richard Kasunic II’s office !!! and a Dairy Queen ]