Face to Face: Risk of contamination from fracking is too high by Katherine Beinkafner and Paul Rubin, January 8, 2013, poughkeepsiejournal.com
Most reasons to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York state originate from petroleum production practices that will contaminate near-surface aquifers and surface waters with the ultimate impact of degrading farmland and delivering serious health effects to nearby property owners and residents.
A recent report of the Energy Resources Conservation Board demonstrates exactly the potential routes of destruction of surface and near surface environment during a fracking procedure in Canada. A passer-by observed 30 feet of fracking fluid gushing up above the pump jack at the well and telephoned authorities. What happened to cause this unanticipated hazardous release? The horizontal well was drilled much too close to the nearby vertical producing oil well. The modeling method was too close for real world conditions. As a consequence, in two hours the high pressures and volume of fracking fluid found the pathway of least resistance 420 feet directly to an oil well and up 6,060 feet to the surface. At least 25,000 gallons of oil and fracking fluids were released. Luckily the ground was frozen and the liquid waste could be vacuumed up. In this case the pathway of least resistance was an operating oil well, but it could be an old abandoned well or rock openings such as faults, fractures, solution cavities (caves), or failing well casing, cement or clay plugs. After the fracking fluids emerge from such a pathway, poisonous methane will follow because the fracking pressure field remains in the subsurface for a matter of months approaching one year. This incident should not be viewed as a simple mistake that was cleaned up at the surface. More problems may arise from a poorly designed frack job and it demonstrates the risk of hydrofracking and fluid transport more than one mile upward to the surface from the high pressures in the process and their persistence thereafter.
In New York, reports by Ron Bishop of SUNY Oneonta and Walter Hang of Toxic Targeting have reported hazardous subsurface fluids (including radioactive materials, brine, methane and lethal chemical compound) that have come up in ponds, basements, garages, wells and other unanticipated locations. New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has published that there are 48,000 (1994) or 57,000 (2008) unplugged old wells.
The risk of uncontrolled contamination of water supplies and consequential human health impacts is an overwhelming reason to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York — and elsewhere. It is not a safe process, especially since fracking fluids contain myriad hazardous chemicals. Congress has a 17-page, single-spaced list of 750 ingredients.
Health effects associated with fracking have been reported in Pennsylvania and Ohio and more reports will be coming daily. Once a water supply is damaged, cleanup is virtually impossible and cost-prohibitive. Clean water for New Yorkers is far more important than profit for gas companies, which now have government permission to ship gas overseas. Such out-of-country sale of our energy resources negates the gas industry’s own statements that we need to develop these resources for energy independence and our own national security.
Paul Rubin works as a consulting hydrogeologist and operates HydroQuest in Accord, with previous experience with the New York Attorney General’s Office. [Emphasis added]
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