Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) is a term used to describe a natural gas drilling technique in which thousands of gallons of water, chemicals and sand are pumped into a shale formation to break apart rock and release the natural gas that is trapped below.
What is Fracking?
Fracking a natural gas well involves drilling horizontally, not vertically, and injecting large volumes of water, chemicals and sand into a shale formation that contains natural gas. The substances are under very high pressure, which causes the formations to crack or fracture.
The fluid is injected further into the formation as the rock fractures. The sand settles in the fractures, keeping them open. These new and open pathways allow the gas to flow freely into the well.
Hydraulic fracturing is used mainly to stimulate production from oil and natural gas wells. It can also be used to stimulate groundwater wells, dispose of certain wastes by injecting it into underground rock formations and preconditioning rock for caving.
Hydraulic fracturing was first used to recover natural gas and oil in 1947. Halliburton was the first company to use it commercially in 1949. Today, fracking is used to stimulate thousands of oil and gas wells each year, worldwide.
Risks for Nearby Communities
The new method of recovering oil and natural gas has brought drilling within a short range of people living in urban areas near the shale formations. Many of the formations holding the gas are also where deep underground water supplies are found. When the chemicals are pumped in, a large portion of the chemicals remain stranded, even though the oil companies may try to pump them back out.
According to reports, shale fracking operations can produce as much as 8 million gallons of contaminated wastewater per well. The operations also produce pollution from the fuel, trucks and construction materials.
The chemicals that are used in a fracking fluid cocktail can include:
- Benzene, a known carcinogen
- Ethyl benzene
- Other toxics
Some of the chemicals get trapped beneath the ground during the fracking process. These toxic chemicals pose a dangerous health risk, as they can seep through crevices in the ground and reach the nearby water supplies. Residents in the surrounding communities are at risk of ingesting the dangerous chemicals in their drinking water.
Tainted water can result in serious health problems, including cancer, respiratory disease, reproduction problems, skin problems and more.
Natural gas drilling has become increasingly popular in certain areas, such as the Marcellus Shale. Marcellus Shale is buried deep under the ground in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
There have been widespread complaints of water contamination and dangerous chemicals in the drinking water near Marcellus Shale. People have complained of drinking water wells exploding from increased methane in the wells. The drinking water itself may smell or taste like gas, look cloudy, contain black sediments or floating particles, and may cause rashes after showering.
Is Your Drinking Water Safe?
If you are living in an area where pollution from natural gas drilling may have caused water contamination, fill out the contact form to speak with a water pollution lawyer.