21 January 2015 – Huffington Post (and others) report on a fracking waste pipe that leaked some 3 million gallons into a North Dakota creek. The company did not know what caused the pipe failure nor when it occurred.
Some fracking operations would like to pipe water to and from processing plants to reduce vehicle movements. Pipelines can fail and if under ice or under the ground, the spill may not be noticed for some time. The ‘brine’ in this story is probably the highly salty returned water from the fracking activity.No mention to date of the more toxic contaminants that were heading down to the Missouri River.
November 27, 2014 – An interdisciplinary team of researchers found methane contamination in drinking water wells located in eight areas above the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale in Texas, with evidence of declining water quality in the Barnett Shale area. By analyzing noble gases and their isotopes (helium, neon, argon), the investigators were able to isolate the origin of the fugitive methane in drinking water. The results implicate leaks through cement well casings as well as via naturally occurring cracks and fissures in the surrounding rock. In a related editorial, one of the study’s authors, Robert Jackson, called on the EPA to re-open its aborted investigation into drinking water contamination in heavily fracked areas of Texas. Jackson also emphasized that methane migration through unseen cracks in the rock surrounding the wellbore “raises the interesting possibility that a drilling company could follow procedures -cementing and casing below the local aquifer — and still create a potential pathway for gas to migrate into drinking water.”
Water quality has been damaged by contamination with methane. It was shown that it was from fracking and in particular from leaks from the well casings. Despite layers of steel pipe and cement, there is still potential for sigificant pathways for gas to migrate into the drinking water sources.
November 3, 2014 – The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that three private drinking water wells were contaminated when Antero Resources mistakenly drilled into one of its own gas wells. Benzene, a human carcinogen, and toluene, a reproductive toxicant, were detected in the drinking water at concentrations four times the legal maximum limit. Additionally, a nearby abandoned gas well, a drinking water well, and an actively producing gas well were all pressurized as a result of the mishap and began exhibiting “artesian flow.”
Accidents happen and migration of gases and fracking fluids occur into inactive and active wells.
October 15, 2014 – Four thousand gallons of liquid fracking waste dumped into Waynesburg sewer system was discovered by sewage treatment plant workers in Greene County, Pennsylvania. The Department of Environmental Protection surmised that “someone removed a manhole cover in a remote location and dumped the fluid.” The treatment plant discharges into a creek that feeds the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to more than 800,000 people.
Wickedness happens too. Polluted fracking waste tipped into a sewer system compromising drinking water sources.
September 23, 2014 – In a two-part audit of records, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the EPA is failing to protect U.S. drinking water sources from fracking-related activities such as waste disposal via injection wells. Nationwide, 172,000 injection wells accept fracking waste; some are known to have contaminated drinking water. And yet, both short-term and long-term monitoring is lax, and record-keeping varies widely from state to state. The EPA neither mandates nor recommends a fixed list of chemicals for monitoring on the grounds that “injection fluids can vary widely in composition and contain different naturally occurring chemicals and fluids used in oil and gas production depending on the source of the injection fluid.” Disposal of oil and gas waste via injection wells is, in fact, subject to regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but, in practice, no one knows exactly what the waste contains, and regulations are deficient. In the United States, at least two billion gallons of fluids are injected into the ground each day to enable oil and gas extraction via fracking or to dispose of liquid waste from fracking operations.
Monitoring and enforcement agencies fail to control the risks posed by fracking.
Fracking waste cannot be cleaned so it is injected under pressure into conventional gas wells – See planning application for Ebberston Moor. Much like fracking though in Ebberston the application is to inject into different rock formations with unknown consequence. Re-injection too causes seismic activity and leaks to the environment and underground water systems. Pipe construction is similar to the fracking pipe which we already know will leak. The frack waste differs from frack fluid in that it picks up radioactive radon and other radioactive elements from deep underground. When it is injected it will frack wherever it is dumped. USA has poor regulation and monitoring as they do not know what the waste contains. It is calculated that billion gallons a day is dumped in this way every day in USA.
September 9, 2014 – A research team from Stanford and Duke Universities discovered that fracking wastewater processed by sewage treatment plants contributes to the formation of carcinogenic chemical byproducts. These raise public health risks when downstream surface water is used for drinking. Even when fracking wastewater was diluted by a factor of 10,000, the bromides and iodides in the waste reacted with organic matter to create highly toxic halogenated compounds—at troublingly high concentrations. These toxic compounds are not filterable by municipal wastewater treatment plants. Halogenated disinfection byproducts in drinking water are linked to both colon and bladder cancers.
Not only does passing fracking waste water through a sewage treatment system fail to remove the pollutants, it also reacts with the chemicals and can encourage the production of even more potent cancer causing chemicals as a result. These are then dischaged into the waterways.
Passing wastewater through sewage treatment plants does not clean it adequately but if encourages the production of some even more toxic chemicals by combinations with iodide and bromides.
August 29, 2014 – A review of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection files on fracking-related damage to drinking water—which are kept on paper and stored in regional offices—revealed that 243 private water supplies in 22 counties had been contaminated or had lost flow and dried up as a result of nearby drilling and fracking operations in the past seven years. Pollutants included methane, metals, and salts as well as carbon-based compounds (ethylene glycol and 2-butoxyethanol) that are known to be constituents of fracking fluid. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this tally— which came as a response to multiple lawsuits and open-records requests by media sources—was the first time the agency “explicitly linked a drilling operation to the presence of industrial chemicals in drinking water.”
Oil and gas companies don’t like to admit they have caused water pollution or damaged supply. The evidence, however, is clear.
August 13, 2014 – Over the last decade, drilling companies have repeatedly claimed they are no longer using diesel fuel in fracking, although a 2011 investigation by U.S. House Democrats concluded otherwise. The Environmental Integrity Project examined disclosure data submitted to FracFocus and identified at least 351 wells in 12 states that have been fracked over the last four years with one or more of the five prohibited products identified as diesel. EIP researchers also discovered numerous fracking fluids with high diesel content for sale online, including over a dozen products sold by Halliburton and advertised as additives, friction reducers, emulsifiers, etc.
The fracking companies are not always honest. They continue to use diesel in fracking fluids although banned for some years. There are significant health risk potential if pollution to water sources occurs.
August 13, 2014 – A team from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported that scientific efforts to understand the hazards of fracking continue to be hampered by industry secrecy. A comprehensive examination of the chemical formulations of fracking fluid—whose precise ingredients are protected as proprietary business information— revealed that no publicly available toxicity or physical chemical information was available for one-third of all the fracking chemicals surveyed. Another ten percent of chemicals, including biocides and corrosion inhibitors, were known to be toxic to mammals.
The fracking companies are not always transparent, sometimes even they don’t know what is in the tin.
August 3, 2014 – An investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that half of all fracking-related spills that resulted in violations and fines were not discovered by the gas companies themselves, even though Pennsylvania state law requires them to pro
-actively seek and report such incidents. The newspaper’s analysis of hundreds of thousands of state and company documents showed that self-regulation in the gas fields is a failure. One third of all spills were discovered by state inspectors, while one-sixth were found by residents. Likely, much contamination is entirely undetected and unreported. The concern over spills is illustrated by two other facts shown in the state files. About one-third of the spills that resulted in a fine impacted a stream, pond or wetland, and about one-quarter of them occurred in a specialty or high-quality watershed — areas in which the state asks drillers to take special precautions to prevent spills.
Self regulation does not work.
July 7, 2014 – California Department of Gas, Oil, and Geothermal Resources ordered seven energy companies to stop injecting liquid fracking waste into aquifers. The ongoing drought that has compelled farmers to supplement irrigation with water drawn from groundwater sources prompted state officials to look at the status of aquifers previously considered too deep for use or too poor in quality. They discovered that at least seven injection wells were very likely pumping liquid fracking waste into protected groundwater supplies rather than aquifers that had been sacrificed for the purpose of waste disposal. Across the United States, more than 1000 aquifers are exempt from any form of pollution protection at all, and many of these are in California, according to a related ProPublica investigation.
It is a challenge to dispose of fracking waste fluid safely even if some waterways are ‘sacrificed’ for that purpose. Fracking companies in California discharged directly into fresh water aquifers.
May 11, 2014 – According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the federal government is failing to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells located on public land, including those that pose special risks of water contamination or other environmental damage. An investigation by the Associated Press found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “had failed to conduct inspections on more than 2,100 of the 3,702 wells that it had specified as ‘high priority’ and drilled from 2009 through 2012. The agency considers a well ‘high priority’ based on a greater need to protect against possible water contamination and other environmental safety issues.”
A system relying on regulation and inspections fails even when directed as particularly high risk locations.
March 25, 2014 – An industry-funded study of oil and gas well integrity found that more than six percent of wells in a major shale exploration region in Pennsylvania showed evidence of leaking and conceded that this number is likely an underestimate. Researchers concluded that the percentage of wells with some form of well barrier or integrity failure is highly variable and could be as high as seventy-five percent. A separate analysis in the same study found 85 examples of cement or casing failures in Pennsylvania wells monitored between 2008 and 2011.
A high percentage of wells leak.
January 16, 2014 – Data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission showed that fracking-related chemical spills in Colorado exceed an average rate of one spill per day. Of the 495 chemical spills that occurred in that state over a one-year period of time, nearly a quarter impacted ground or surface water. Sixty-three of the spills spread within 1,500 feet of pigs, sheep and cows, and 225 spread within 1,500 feet of buildings
Spills are common, more than daily in Colorado.
November 28, 2013 – An Associated Press investigation uncovered nearly 300 oil pipeline spills in North Dakota in the previous ten months, all with no public notification. These were among some 750 “oil field incidents” that had occurred in the state over the same time period, also without public notification. Until the AP inquiry, industry and state officials had kept quiet about one particular “massive spill” that had been accidentally discovered by a wheat farmer. Even small spills can contaminate water sources permanently and take cropland out of production.
The oil and gas companies don’t like to tell the public about oil pipeline spills even though they happen on a daily basis in North Dakota.
November 22, 2013 – A U.S. Geological Survey study of pollution from oil production in North Dakota, where horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are heavily used, identified two potential plumes of groundwater contamination covering 12 square miles. The cause was traced to a casing failure in a wastewater disposal well. Drilling companies had incorrectly assumed that, once injected underground, the wastewater would remain contained. According to EnergyWire, the development of the Bakken oil formation is “leaving behind an imprint on the land as distinct as the ones left by the receding ice sheets of the ice age.”
The industry was surprised to discover that water pollution in one place spreads underground. The huge underwater lake known as The Ryedale Aquifer might be particularly at risk from migration of pollutants.
September 10, 2013 – Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed criminal charges against Exxon Mobil Corporation’s subsidiary, XTO Energy Corporation, for a spill of 50,000 gallons of toxic drilling wastewater in 2010 that contaminated a spring and a tributary of the Susquehanna River. In July, XTO settled civil charges for the incident without admitting liability by agreeing to pay a $100,000 fine and improve its wastewater management.
Spills are not always just a little dampness. A vast volume of water with fracking chemicals yet the company defends itself with denial of liability and receives a small fine. $2 a gallon of pollution. The full article raises a number if interesting issues and conflicts.
July 3, 2013 – ProPublica reported that the EPA was wrong to have halted its investigation of water contamination in Wyoming, Texas and Pennsylvania—where high levels of benzene, methane, arsenic, oil, methane, copper, vanadium and other chemicals associated with fracking operations have been documented. Although numerous organizations and health professionals around the country have since called on the agency to resume its investigation, no action has been taken.
Monitoring is not strict. A combination of government enthusiasm for the industry and diminishing man-power result in inactivity and collusion. The chemicals detected are serious human and animal toxins which are hard to remove once in the body.
June 6, 2013 – Bloomberg News reported, In cases from Wyoming to Arkansas, Pennsylvania to Texas, drillers have agreed to cash settlements or property buyouts with people who say hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, ruined their water according to a review by Bloomberg News of hundreds of regulatory and legal filings. In most cases homeowners must agree to keep quiet. The strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the news media and health researchers, and makes it difficult to challenge the industry’s claim that fracking has never tainted anyone’s water. Bloomberg quoted Aaron Bernstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, saying that non-disclosure agreements “have interfered with the ability of scientists and public health experts to understand what is at stake here.”108 The EPA also long ago noted how non-disclosure agreements challenge scientific progress and keep examples of drilling harm secret from the public. In a 1987 report, the EPA wrote, Very often damage claims against oil and gas operators are settled out of court, and information on known damage cases has often been sealed through agreements between landowners and oil companies. This is typical practice, for instance, in Texas. In some cases, even the records of well-publicized damage incidents are almost entirely unavailable for review. In addition to concealing the nature and size of any settlement entered into between the parties, impoundment curtails access to scientific and administrative documentation of the incident.109
Secrecy and gagging clauses restrict public health experts and scientists in their efforts to assess the extent of the problem and thus understand the risks.
May, 2012 – A report by researchers at Natural Resources Defense Council and Carnegie Mellon University found that the options available for dealing with fracking wastewater are inadequate to protect public health and the environment, resulting in increasing quantities of toxic wastewater as an ongoing problem without a good solution.
You cannot clean the fracking waste water.
January 11, 2012 – The U.S. Geological Survey found that the Marcellus Shale is already highly fractured and that numerous fissures naturally occurring within the formation could potentially provide pathways for contaminants to migrate vertically into water supplies.
The geology of Ryedale is similarly confused with multiple faults. Upward migration of fracking fluids might occur into the natural aquifers.
September 7, 2011 – In its draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS), the NYS DEC acknowledged that “there is questionable available capacity”120 for New York’s public sewage treatment plants to accept drilling wastewater, yet the agency said that it would allow those facilities to accept such waste if the plants meet permitting conditions. The NYS DEC proposed underground injection as one alternative to sewage treatment procession of fracking waste. Although it is a common method of disposal for fracking wastewater, the last significant government study of pollution risks from oil and gas wastewater injection wells occurred in 1989 and found multiple cases of costly groundwater contamination. In subsequent years, studies have continued to link underground injection of drilling wastewater to pollution as well as earthquakes.
And it is best not to dump polluted waste water into injection wells. Pollution and earthquakes are caused by this ‘cousin’ of fracking. There seems to be no clean up of the wage water that is satisfactory.
August 4, 2011 – As reported by The New York Times, the EPA had alerted Congress in 1987 about a case of water contamination caused by fracking. Its report documented that a shale gas well hydraulically fractured at a depth of more than 4,200 feet contaminated a water supply only 400 feet from the surface.
The Environment Agency tells Congress of contamination from fracking at 4,200 ft up to drinking water at 400 ft. The industry discount this possibility but it happened nearly 30 years ago and was reported to Congress.
April 18, 2011 – As part of a year-long investigation into hydraulic fracturing and its potential impact on water quality, U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) released the second of two reports issued in 2011. Their analysis of hydraulic fracturing fluids used by the 14 leading oil and natural gas service companies between 2005 and 2009 found, among other things, that the companies used more than 650 different products that contained chemicals that are known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The report also showed that “between 2005 and 2009, the companies used 94 million gallons of 279 products that contained at least one chemical or component that the manufacturers deemed proprietary or a trade secret … in most cases the companies stated that they did not have access to proprietary information about products they purchased ‘off the shelf’ from chemical suppliers. In these cases, the companies are injecting fluids containing chemicals that they themselves cannot identify.” These findings were reported in the New York Times.
No-one really knows what chemicals are being used. Repeated claims of industrial secrecy are used. This should not be permitted under any circumstance. Concern about injection unknown chemicals into the deep rock structures during fracking and disposal of contaminated water.
January 31, 2011 – As part of a year-long investigation into hydraulic fracturing and its potential impact on water quality, U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) reported that “between 2005 and 2009, oil and gas service companies injected 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in 19 states.” Furthermore, revealing apparent widespread violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the investigation found that no oil and gas service companies had sought—and no state or federal regulators had issued—permits for the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing.
The companies do not respect the Safe Drinking Water Act which bans the use of diesel in fracking fluids.They used 32 million gallons of diesel or fluids containing diesel without permission.
CSIRO scientists ( Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) have highlighted concerns that chemicals produced by hydraulic fracturing could be affecting ground and surface waters.
In a review published in CSIRO’s online Environmental Chemistry journal, researchers say fracking may be unlocking pollutants currently trapped safely in the ground and mixing them with substances injected by mining operations.
Review author and CSIRO chief research scientist Dr Graeme Batley says there is very little understanding of the chemical concentrations or what happens to them over time.
“To date there have been relatively few publications in the open scientific literature dealing with the environmental impacts of coal seam gas production and especially of fracking as well as geogenic [naturally occurring] contaminants, with most information contained in confidential reports to the service companies,” the review says.
“Although the industry is adapting where possible to more benign fracking chemicals there is still a lack of information on exposure to natural and added chemicals, and their fate and ecotoxicity in both the discharged produced and flow-back waters.”
Petrochemcials such as benzene, and naturally occurring metals and radioactive materials have been found in water produced as a result of fracking, according to the review.
The practice is controversial and fracking for coal seam gas has been blamed for depleting and contaminating groundwater and causing methane to leak up through farmland in Queensland and the US.
Monash University environmental engineer Dr Graham Mudd says more quantitative work needs to be done on the issue.
He says aside from a lack of data on the impacts of fracking chemicals on groundwater, there is a problem with how legislation controls the industry.
“At the end of the day, we’ve had multi-billion dollar projects go through Queensland and we still can’t get an accurate description of what is in [discharged] water, how it varies, what are the concentrations, how much chemicals have been put in and what has been the impact so far from existing coal seam gas operations—this is all stuff that an environmental assessment process should have dealt with and it hasn’t, and it has failed,” Dr Mudd says.
Industry representatives Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association did not respond about the CSIRO paper
This time it’s Australian scientists showing concern about water contamination. They have been aware of the failure of the environmental controls, poor transparency about the chemistry of the fracking contents and the fracking waste, and of poor scientific evidence that fracking is safe. Is this a world wide feature of the approach from the oil and gas industry?
A report from a wide range of Canadian Academics looking at the science behind fracking.
The primary concerns are the degradation of the quality of groundwater and surface water (including the safe disposal of large volumes of wastewater); the risk of increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (including fugitive methane emissions during and after production), thus exacerbating anthropogenic climate change; disruptive effects on communities and land; and adverse effects on human health. Other concerns include the local release of air contaminants and the potential for triggering small- to moderate-sized earthquakes in seismically active areas. These concerns will vary by region.
The assessment of environmental impacts is hampered by a lack of information about many key issues, particularly the problem of fluids escaping from incompletely sealed wells. If wells can be sealed, the risk to groundwater is expected to be minimal, although little is known about the mobility and fate of hydraulic fracturing chemicals and wastewater in the subsurface. The pertinent questions are difficult to answer objectively and scientifically, either because the relevant data have not been obtained; because some relevant data are not publicly available; or because existing data are of variable quality, allow for divergent interpretations, or span a wide range of values with different implications.
Natural gas leakage from improperly formed, damaged, or deteriorated cement seals is a long-recognized yet unresolved problem that continues to challenge engineers. Leaky wells due to improperly placed cement seals, damage from repeated fracturing treatments, or cement deterioration over time, have the potential to create pathways for contamination of groundwater resources and to increase GHG emissions.
However, not enough is known about the fate of the chemicals in the flowback water to understand potential impacts to human health, the environment, or to develop appropriate remediation. Monitoring, assessment, and mitigation of impacts from upward migration are more difficult than for surface activities.
The greatest threat to groundwater is gas leakage from wells for which even existing best practices cannot assure long-term prevention…..These potential impacts are not being systematically monitored, predications remain unreliable, and approaches for effective and consistent monitoring need to be developed.
This return flow, or flowback, is a potentially hazardous waste because it typically contains hydrocarbons including variable amounts of benzene and other aromatics, fracturing chemicals, and potentially hazardous constituents leached from the shale (e.g., salts, metals, metalloids, and natural radioactive constituents). Although flowback water is now commonly re-used in later fracturing treatments, a fraction eventually remains that poses technical challenges for treatment where deep wastewater injection for disposal may not be feasible
Whether shale gas development will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change will depend on several variables, including which energy sources it displaces (viz., coal and oil vs. nuclear and renewables), and the volume of methane emissions from gas leakage at the wellhead and in the distribution system. Experts disagree about these matters.
Shale gas development requires extensive infrastructure that includes roads, well pads, compressor stations, pipeline rights-of-way, and staging areas. While the use of multi-well pads and longer horizontal laterals reduces the environmental impact, compared to individual well sites, the cumulative effects of the large number of wells and related infrastructure required to develop the resource still impose substantial impacts on communities and ecosystems. Furthermore, the performance of the infrastructure, operations, and closure procedures will likely be geology- and operator-specific and require monitoring for potential fluid migration over long time scales to assess impacts. Since the degree of future land reclamation from shale gas development is uncertain, consideration should be given to the risks and financial liability that arise. Land impacts may include deforestation, the destruction and fragmentation of wildlife habitat, and adverse effects on existing land uses such as agriculture and tourism. It is difficult to estimate these impacts without information on the location, pace, and scale of future shale gas development.
The health and social impacts of shale gas development have not been well studied. While shale gas development will provide varied economic benefits, it may also adversely affect water and air quality and community well-being as a result of the rapid growth of an extraction industry in rural and semi-rural areas. Potential community impacts include health and safety issues related to truck traffic and the sudden influx of a large transient workforce. Psychosocial impacts on individuals and on the communities have been reported related to physical stressors, such as noise, and perceived lack of trustworthiness of the industry and government. If shale gas development expands, risks to quality of life and well-being in some communities may become significant due to the combination of diverse factors related to land use, water quality, air quality, and loss of rural serenity, among others.
The potential impacts of shale gas development, as well as strategies to manage these impacts, need to be considered in the context of local concerns and values. More specifically, the manner in which residents are engaged in decisions concerning shale gas development will be an important determinant of their acceptance or rejection of this development. To earn public trust, credible multidisciplinary research will need to be conducted to understand existing impacts and predict future impacts. Public acceptance of large-scale shale gas development will not be gained through industry claims of technological prowess or through government assurances that environmental effects are acceptable. It will be gained by transparent and credible monitoring of the environmental impacts.
In most instances, shale gas extraction has proceeded without sufficient environmental baseline data being collected (e.g., nearby groundwater quality, critical wildlife habitat). This makes it difficult to identify and characterize environmental impacts that may be associated with or inappropriately blamed on this development.
Full disclosure of chemicals and the chemical composition of flowback water is a necessary but insufficient step in the assessment of the environmental risks associated with drilling and fracturing. Information is also required on potentially hazardous chemicals produced down-hole by chemical interactions under high temperature and pressure. This includes information on concentration, mobility, persistence in groundwater and surface water, and bio-accumulation properties, for each chemical on its own and as a mixture. This represents a major gap in understanding of the potential environmental and human impacts of hydraulic fracturing, and of how to mitigate accidental releases of chemicals or flowback water to the environment.
Monitoring that has been done indicates that gas leakage into aquifers and the atmosphere is frequent enough to raise concern. Given the likely future density of gas wells, shale gas development is expected to have a greater long- term impact than conventional oil and gas development.
A very useful review from eminent scientists from across the disciplines. It reflects the wide range of unknowns, the risks and the areas of impact that have not been adequately considered.The executive summary gives an excellent overview and is very readable.
3 March 2015
A collection of new scientific research looks at the impact of fracking. The Journal of Environmental Health and Science has early research results in a number of areas. In brief – fracking is not good for people who live near wells, fracking is not good for domestic or farm animals and fracking is not good for river creatures – crayfish fill up with mercury. The rivers may become polluted with radioactivity and our water sources polluted with gas and other chemicals. And another survey found that the data that should be available for public scrutiny just wasn’t there. This makes science so much more difficult.
In people, the most common health impacts at the time of the interviews fell under the categories of neurological, respiratory, vascular, dermatologic, and gastrointestinal problems; there were no significant changes in health over time. In companion animals, the most common health impacts at the time of the interviews fell under the categories of gastrointestinal, reproductive, respiratory, neurologic, and dermatologic problems, and sudden death; as in humans, no significant changes in health were noted over time. In food animals, the most common health impacts at the time of the interviews fell under the categories of reproductive, neurologic, gastrointestinal, decrease in milk production, respiratory, and growth problems; significant changes in numbers of reported symptoms were noted over time in the categories of reproduction (decrease), respiratory (increase) and growth (increase) problems.
The initial spike in reproductive problems in food animals occurred because several herds were exposed directly to drilling muds and fluids, fracturing fluids or wastewater; over time, these incidents decreased. However, farmers in these cases are still reporting increased reproductive problems above what they have seen in their many years of raising cattle, especially on farms where the entire herd was exposed. Respiratory symptoms in food animals increased from the first to the second interviews; this may in part be due to the slight increase over time in exposures to processing and production operations and the fact that food animals are often on site for long periods and thus have high exposure rates. Growth problems also increased over time in food animals and may potentially have many causes, but when associated with fossil fuel operations, may be indicative of exposure to endocrine disruptors.[2,3,8]
One of these cases (Table A1, Case 10) involved the horse breeding operation mentioned above and is interesting because it has a natural control group—the horses that remained behind and continually exposed. At the time of the first interview, the manager reported air and water contamination associated with the start of gas drilling operations, and health problems in her, her dog and the horses used for breeding. After more than two years at this location, the manager and her dog moved to an area with no unconventional extraction. While the health impacts of the horses have remained the same, the health of the manager and that of her dog improved greatly after a few months. However, on a recent visit to the farm, she again fell ill but recovered after leaving. In another case (Table A1, Case 16), a participant who moved due to health problems experienced by her family and animals must periodically return to the original location to check her home. After a few hours at this location, a red blotchy rash appears on her face, neck and arms that becomes progressively worse after 48 hours; the rash will clear after a week if she does not return to this location. She has been diagnosed with dermatitis due to chemical exposure.
McKenzie et al.RIDcit0006 reported increased noncancer risks such as short-term respiratory and neurological health effects in people living in close proximity to well sites in Colorado, especially during the phases of hydraulic fracturing and flowback; this work follows an aborted health impact assessment to identify potential risks and benefits to a small community undergoing intensive gas development.RIDcit0009 Steinzor et al.RIDcit0007 included respiratory, neurological, gastrointestinal and dermatological problems among common symptoms reported by people living nearby gas facilities in Pennsylvania. Ferrar et al.RIDcit0005 documented dermal, digestive, upper respiratory and central nervous system symptoms as being the most common health impacts in people living close to unconventional gas development in Pennsylvania. The human health symptoms reported in these studies are consistent with our findings. Ferrar et al.RIDcit0005 followed cases longitudinally over 19–22 months and found that reported symptoms increased in the majority of organ systems. However, case participants who had moved away from their communities between the first and second interviews were removed from the sample population in the Ferrar study. As these types of cases were not removed from our study, and because we accounted for changes in industrial activity over time, this may partially account for the different outcomes.
The major finding of this study is that health impacts dropped for families and animals moving out of intensively drilled areas or remaining in areas where drilling activity decreased. In the cases of families that remained in the same area and for which drilling activity either remained the same or increased, no change in health impacts was observed. This is particularly interesting because, in some of the cases, the initial interview was done after an incident, such as a wastewater leak from an impoundment.
The distribution of symptoms was unchanged for humans and companion animals, but was significantly changed for food animals. Reports of reproductive failure fell, while respiratory issues and stunted growth were reported more often. Although this may be a consequence of the selection of cases, it represents an interesting change. In some of the cases involving food animals, the initial interview was conducted following an incident such as the leak of wastewater into a pasture or into the source of drinking water for the herd. These incidents were strongly associated with the failure to breed. In the second interview, the contaminated areas were made inaccessible or remediated; in one case, the herd was provided an alternative source of water.
This longitudinal case study illustrates the importance of obtaining detailed epidemiological data on the long-term health effects of multiple chemical exposures and multiple routes of exposure that are characteristic of the environmental impacts of unconventional drilling operations.
In another report the concentration of mercury in fresh water rivers was found to be higher in crayfish and other aquatic species in relation to the number of frack pads in the vicinity.
The continuous discharges from the Waste Water Treatment Plant into the Blacklick creek over many years have impacted on the accumulated radioactivity in the soil sediment directly at the exhaust point. Although dilution occurs downstream of the discharge pipe, there is still measureable levels of radiological contaminations in the stream sediments approximately 0.5 km from source. Previous analysis in the same Western Pennsylvania locations reported Marcellus shale produced wastewater average concentrated radioactivity levels for Ra226 and Ra228 of 3231 pCi/L and 452 pCi/L, and for treated effluent water of 4 pCi/L and 2 pCi/L respectively. Chemical analysis also indicates associated high contaminated levels of salinity and toxic metals.
Reports of ground water contamination in a southwestern Pennsylvania community coincided with unconventional shale gas extraction activities that started late 2009. Residents participated in a survey and well water samples were collected and analyzed. Available pre-drill and post-drill water test results and legacy operations (e.g., gas and oil wells, coal mining) were reviewed. Fifty- six of the 143 respondents indicated changes in water quality or quantity while 63 respondents reported no issues. Color change (brown, black, or orange) was the most common (27 households). Well type, when known, was rotary or cable tool, and depths ranged from 19 to 274 m. Chloride, sulfate, nitrate, sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese and strontium were commonly found, with 25 households exceeding the secondary maximum contaminate level (SMCL) for manganese. Methane was detected in 14 of the 18 houses tested. The 26 wells tested for total coliforms (2 positives) and E. coli (1 positive) indicated that septic contamination was not a factor. Repeated sampling of two wells in close proximity (204 m) but drawing from different depths (32 m and 54 m), revealed temporal variability. Since 2009, 65 horizontal wells were drilled within a 4 km (2.5 mile) radius of the community, each well was stimulated on average with 3.5 million gal of fluids and 3.2 million lbs of proppant. PA DEP cited violations included an improperly plugged well and at least one failed well casing. This study underscores the need for thorough analyses of data, documentation of legacy activity, pre-drill testing, and long term monitoring.
We have used a variety of methods to determine whether there is a correlation between the changes in well water quality in water wells with surrounding USGE in this community in Southwest Pennsylvania. The survey results indicate that there has been an increase in well water issues in the community since 2010. Water chemistry results show elevated cations and anions including manganese, iron, bromide and chloride. Different wells had different contaminants although the majority had manganese above the MCL. Light hydrocarbon analyses suggested a thermogenic source for the methane in some wells. Analysis of mapping results revealed the community lies over the Little Creek Oil Field, and locations of previous mining and oil and gas activities.
DEP file review indicates several violations that could result in groundwater contamination. The proximity and location of USGE well sites to the community provide shorter pathways for the transport of surface and subsur- face contamination. The number of lateral wells (65) within 4 km of the community could have contributed to subsurface disturbance ultimately resulting in well water contamination. Further in-depth study of the local geology and hydrology, in addition to access to all pre-drill tests and well completion records would allow for a more definitive assessment. This study demonstrates the challenges faced in making a positive determination (e.g., relating contamination to drilling activity) and the need for thorough investigation including legacy activity, pre-drill test- ing, investigation found no connection between the change in water quality and the drilling, the alternative conducted between the fall of 2011 through the spring of 2014. The goal was to determine how many wells in the community had been affected as well as those that had not, and to determine types and possible sources of contamination.