Water Contamination and Property Damage From Fracking
Groundwater contamination is the focus of most people’s worries about the dangers of fracking. Because fracking involves shooting millions of gallons of high-pressure liquid deep into the earth, the liquid must pass through the groundwater table on the way down—and again on the way up. But on the way up, the fracking liquid also contains a mixture of substances that the fracturing of the rock table loosened. The pollution comes from those substances as well as the hundreds of chemicals added to the fracking liquid.
Typically, fracking water pollution happens when the fracking liquid is on its way back to the surface of the Earth, when it passes through a leaking well and enters the groundwater. From there, it can go directly into freshwater wells or enter the water system through natural bodies of water. Once the fracking fluid is in the water system, it can spread into drinking water for humans, pets and livestock.
That’s a problem because used fracking fluid carries a variety of substances that can harm human health. These include methane, arsenic, radioactive materials, salts and the mysterious proprietary blend of fracking chemicals that oil and gas companies refuse to disclose. Though companies are not required by law to tell regulators what’s in fracking chemicals, scientists have analyzed used fluids and found hundreds of substances, including 65 chemicals that federal regulators consider hazardous. Pennsylvania and several other states have documented water pollution caused by fracking; even the federal government, which declined to regulate it under the Clean Water Act, has acknowledged the problem.
For people living in contamination zones, this can cause serious health problems. Many Pennsylvania residents who live near fracking sites complain of respiratory problems, dizziness, itchy skin and other chronic problems. More severe cases include cancer and damage to vital bodily systems. Pets, livestock and wildlife have been known to die or suffer permanent damage, including reproductive damage.
All these pollution problems can also lead to damage to private property around the drilling site. Because pollution directly affects the livability of an area, it can hurt the resale value of a home. Contamination of the water and soil can hurt working farms and ranches, including crops and livestock as well as the soil and buildings. And those who depend on tourism to make a living may see their livelihoods dwindle as fishing, hunting and camping areas are affected by pollution.
More rarely—but more seriously—studies show that fracking can trigger small earthquakes. Indeed, disposal of fracking fluid was blamed for a 4.0 (mid-sized) earthquake that rattled the Pennsylvania-Ohio border on New Year’s Eve 2011. These earthquakes take place when fracking liquid disturbs a site that already has seismic activity, so they can easily be avoided by companies willing to do the environmental research required to skirt seismic hazard zones.
And most deadly of all, fracking sometimes leads to an explosion. Anytime natural gas is fed through a pipeline, that pipeline could rupture and explode, killing anyone nearby and damaging property throughout the area. This may take place on a job site, but it can also happen anywhere else along a pipeline—if the energy company ignores safety precautions.
Everyone deserves to have safe water, air and homes. If you believe fracking has made your community unsafe or caused serious injuries to your family, don’t wait to call Rosenbaum & Associates for help. You can reach us through our website or call (215) 569-0200.