While West Virginians need employment, frackers appear to be bringing their workers in from elsewhere. But, even so, this new technology could help significantly if the damage it inflicts on environment, health and property values could be curtailed.
In fracking, gas is brought up by taking millions of gallons of water, often from local streams, and forcing them, along with chemicals, into each well. Not only does this water have over 500 different fracking additives, it now, from deep below, also has extremely high concentrations of salt, plus bromide, mercury, arsenic and lead, the potent carcinogens toluene, benzene and xylene and radioactivity up to 3,800 times safe drinking level. The radiation alone will be here for thousands of years, causing early death, illness and birth defects.
Because of the toxicity of fracking waste, all sewage treatment plants in both West Virginia and Pennsylvania have been ordered to refuse it. Then, every oil and gas waste treatment plant in Pennsylvania that processed frack waste was required to stop when radiation from one such plant was found near a public drinking water intake 70 miles downstream.
Now, the Green Hunter Frack Water Recycling Facility, in Wheeling, awaits a Coast Guard permit to barge the waste downriver to injection wells, purportedly, in Ohio. But, unlike West Virginia, Ohio requires a stringent radiation test for such disposal. On the other hand, a pipeline is being built that will reach from the Ohio River to a highly-fracked area in Central WV with no disposal sites. According to contracts with landholders, this pipe will carry “unspecified fluids in BOTH DIRECTIONS.” It might follow, then, that toxic fracking waste from Pennsylvania and West Virginia will, in fact, be placed in injection wells in WV, where there is little oversight, and there, will seriously threaten our drinking water.
Further, because of intense pressure to dispose of this waste, the WV Division of Highways (DOH) has a contract to purchase “gas well brine” for de-icing and settling dust. Once dry, it becomes easily airborne, entering homes and lodging in lungs. Wherever such material has been so applied, cancer and other disease rates increase a hundred-fold over the national average. Toxic levels of radon have recently been discovered where frack brine is being used to settle the dust on secondary WV roads. Though the WV Division of Highways (DOH) claims it is not applying frack brine, the delivery tankers are marked only as “brine.” Additionally, while the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection says it is using Geiger counters to test for radioactivity, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that such a test is ineffective for the more dangerous form of radiation that marks frack brine. Thus, since no WV agency is equipped to perform the accurate, but costly, EPA test, the DOH has no way of knowing what brine it is accepting.
This dilemma, however, has a solution. In other states, a few fracking companies are using liquid propane or nitrogen instead of water. Such a system reportedly gets more gas out of new wells and rejuvenates old ones. Fresh water is preserved, not taken, and trucking, with its pollution, noise and traffic hazards, is thus reduced by 90 percent.
There is also far less flaring. This matters greatly for air quality – and the planet. According to a fracking permit application, one flare from a new well emits 32,000 pounds of CO2 per hour! The dirtiest coal-fired power plants by comparison, produce about 3.300 pounds of CO2 per hour at one megawatt strength.
But best of all; no billions of gallons of toxic waste to handle.
It might seem, therefore, that it should be mandated that all fracking be done with gas, instead of water. As a regulation, it would equalize changeover costs so that responsible companies would not be forced to continue using water to compete. Frackers are required to reduce flaring by 2015, so why not require fracking with gas today, and save our water, health, and roads in the bargain?
The reason you may not have heard about much of this could be that the energy industry buys huge amounts of advertising in the media—who are then reluctant to publicize negative facts. But if you are concerned for the environment and your health, please do your own research, then contact officials, speak to friends, hold meetings and ally with the WV Mountain Party, who is championing this cause. In all cases, please consider a ban on water-based fracking, as other states and nations have in place. Only through public awareness will the situation be changed