Fracking is a buzz word found all over the the media at the moment. This articles aims to explain what the term means and considers what the potential impact could be to our drinking water.
Fracking is the term given to a process called high-volume hydraulic fracturing. It is a method used to obtain natural gas that is hidden in tiny pockets deep inside the Earth’s crust. Supporters of the fracking industry maintain that it creates jobs and boosts the economy, while critics worry that it is mostly unregulated and that risks of contamination to water are being underestimated. The following short clip explains clearly how the process of fracking works.
Fracking involves drilling a well into the thick rock far below the surface of the Earth. Once the well is complete the drilling continues horizontally, for as long as two miles in some cases. Next, a combination of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the well. This is done in enormous volumes, with millions of gallons of drinking water and energy being used in the process. This water becomes irreparably contaminated as a result of the fracking procedure. The mixture is pumped into the drilled tunnel at high pressure creating a multitude of tiny cracks in the rock, releasing the gas from it’s pockets.
The precise composition of chemicals used in this mixture are not published, but more than 600 different ones are used by various companies. The most common chemicals found are benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene, known at BTEX. They are associated with many health complaints.
The following breakdown of pollutants linked to fracking are listed below, as published by frackingandhealth.org
Pollutant – Methane
What is it? – Natural gas, can leak out of wells into the air and water, has no door
Health effect – When trapped in a house, can cause explosion & asphyxiation.
Pollutant – Hydrogen Sulfide
What is it? – May be found in natural gas and can leak out during fracking process, has a rotten egg odor at low levels in the air
Health Effect – Low levels= lung irritation – coughing, tears from the eyes, skin irritation, dizziness, headache. High levels= odor goes away, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and even death.
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