We know that hydrofracturing releases toxins into the ground and into water and into air, not just in the actual drilling, but during the construction and operation of the wells. The number of trucks alone will significantly raise noise and air pollution in our communities:
- The contamination of ground water with high-volume hydraulic fracturing chemicals has been documented by the 2011 EPA study of Pavillion Wyoming. No other source for the chemicals in this now hazardous water could be identified besides hydraulic fracturing. See the EPA’s report, DRAFT investigation of Ground Water Contamination near Pavillion Wyoming.
- This Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) blog by Amy Mall documents 34 cases from around the country titled, Incidents Where Hydraulic Fracturing Is a Suspected Cause of Drinking Water Contamination.
- A 2008 investigation of court records and state agency records found over 1000 cases of suspected water contamination due to gas drilling in Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2008. See Abrahm Lustgarten’s article, Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?
- The US Geological Survey (USGS) has raised some very serious concerns in the USGS comment letter to the DEC on the dSGEIS, the revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. The USGS states the DEC’s map of faults is out of date, not correct and grossly under-estimate the number of faults in the bedrock layer separating the shale layer from the ground water. The risk is if drilling is allowed in the region of these faults highly pressurized hydraulic fracturing fluid will find a return path to contaminate the ground water. See the Executive Summary of the USGS dSGEIS Comment Letter or see the actual USGS dSGEIS Comment Letter. The same idea applies to the estimated 30,000 unmapped abandoned gas wells in New York.
- The US Geological Survey (USGS) also suggests the proposed setback of 500 feet between a gas well and a water well only provided limited protection. “The 500 foot buffer around domestic wells does not take local geohydrologic conditions and topographic setting into account.” In addition, “siting well pads immediately upslope of domestic wells in bedrock aquifer areas should be avoided.” The current DEC’s dSGEIS does not address these considerations. See the Executive Summary of the USGS dSGEIS Comment Letter or see the actual USGS dSGEIS Comment Letter. Documented instances exist where contamination has traveled from the gas well to 1000 feet, 2,300 feet and 4,000 feet. See the Executive Summary of the USGS Comment Letter
- Well casing failure can cause underground methane migration into adjacent groundwater. Industry data suggests that 1 in 20 (5%) wells will have casing failure initially. The same data suggests 1 in 2 (50%) of wells will have casing failure after 20 years. See Cornell engineering professor and gas drilling expert Anthony Ingraffea’s SGEIS Comment Letter to the DEC. Who will track the methane leakage from all these wells? Who will pay to fix them when revenue from the gas field has largely played out?
- Underground methane migration appears to be one of the most likely causes of ground water pollution risk. Select gas wells in Pennsylvania found hazardous levels of methane in well water within 0.6 miles of the high-volume hydraulic fracturing gas well. The proposed setback of 500 feet between a gas well and a water well may be insufficient to provide protection. See the Duke University paper, Contamination of Drinking Water Accompanying Gas-Well Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing.
- Chesapeake Energy reached a $1.6 million dollar settlement with three families with well water contamination with methane in Wyalusing Township in Bradford County Pennsylvania. The families will be forced to move. See the article from the Wall Street Journal, “$1.6M Settlement in PA Gas Drilling Lawsuit“. About 30 other families in the area are pursuing legal remedies in similar claims.
- Methane was found in water wells at residences in Union Township in Tioga County Pennsylvania near the Guindon K 706 well pad. Four residents were evacuated from their homes as of June 21, 2012. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Conservation (DEP) is investigating with the operator Shell Oil. See the article from the Harrisburg Post-Gazette, “Methane Migration Probed in Tioga County“.
- Methane was found in well water at residences in Leroy Township of Bradford County Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Conservation (DEP) is investigating the Morse well pad with the operator Chesapeake Energy. Chesapeake Energy is supplying water to one home and two others are now using bottled water. See the article from the Harrisburg Post-Gazette, “Methane Gas Found in 3 Wells and 2 Streams in Bradford County“.
- As the methane out gases from the water the risk are explosion and fire. At higher concentrations methane inhalation can lead to headaches, nausea, brain damage and eventually death. See Josh Fox’s white paper, Affirming Gasland, page 11.
- Surface spills may also lead to ground water contamination over time, if they are not reported and properly cleaned up.
Air Pollution Risks
- The American Lung Association requests the EPA issue stronger regulations of gas industry-related air pollution. See the ALA’s appeal to the EPA.
- Air pollution related to gas drilling was measured in the recent study led by Mckenzie of the Colorado School of Public Health. Air samples were taken during the well completion phase of gas drilling in Garfield County, Colorado. Based EPA guidelines for chemical exposure the study predicts an increase in cancers are possible and further study is warranted. See McKenzie’s study, Human Health Risk Assessment of Air Emissions from Development of Unconventional Natural Gas Resources.
- Air pollution, including chemicals associated with hydraulic fracturing, has also been documented. One documented example is in Dish, Texas where air samples were done, finding chemicals associated with the high-volume hydraulic fracturing process. The health symptoms many residents were experiencing were the same as those that would be expected from exposure to the chemicals identified in the air sample tests. While this does not prove the resident’s health issues were caused by gas drilling related air pollution it raises critical concerns. See the Dish, Texas Resident Health Survey by Earthworks.
Air pollution results due to high levels of diesel exhaust near well pads is reportedly common. This is caused by both the heavy truck traffic and by the stationary diesel engines used in the process. The degree of the problem depends on pad density, drilling process phase and weather conditions. It was so severe in Green River Basin, Wyoming on certain days in 2011 that advisories needed to be issued recommending restricted activities outdoors. See the Huffington Post article, Wyoming Air Pollution Worse Than Los Angeles Due to Gas Drilling