New reports on the hazards of fracking

fracking-infographic-1024x767Source: Daily Kos.

I’ve long been aware that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is associated with earthquakes, but I had thought the main reason was the settling of the geological strata after the fracking process is complete and the fracking fluid is pumped out.

But according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the main cause of fracking-induced earthquakes is the injection of the huge amounts of contaminated waste water into deep geological strata.

Large areas of the United States that used to experience few or no earthquakes have, in recent years, experienced a remarkable increase in earthquake activity that has caused considerable public concern as well as damage to structures. This rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.

Instead, the increased seismicity is due to fluid injection associated with new technologies that enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive reservoirs.  These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S.

via USGS Release.

Meanwhile in California the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit conservation organization, has found deep underground storage of oil fracking waste water has allowed toxic and cancer-causing chemicals to contaminate aquifers, underground reservoirs that can be a source of irrigation and drinking water.

Benzene levels over 1,500 times the federal limits for drinking water were found in fracking flowback fluid tests dating back to April 2014 obtained and analyzed by the Center [for Biological Diversity] . Benzene in excess of federal limits was found in 320 tests, and chromium-6 was detected 118 times. Both chemicals can cause cancer.  [snip]

Hundreds of injection wells were recently revealed to be illegally dumping oil industry wastewater into scores of California aquifers, including some that supply water for drinking and farming irrigation.  Central Valley water officials also recently revealed that at least 383 oil industry wastewater pits are operating without permits or oversight. Most wastewater pits are unlined and don’t have covers.  [snip]

Among the concerns revealed by the Center’s analysis of fracking flowback testing:

High chromium-6 levels: Chromium-6 was found in fracking flowback at levels up to 2,700 times the recommended level set by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

Missing reports: At least 100 fracking flowback tests are missing from the reporting website managed by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, in violation of state law.

Missing benzene data: Only 329 of the 479 fracking fluid chemical tests on the state oil agency’s website measured for benzene.

Benzene common: Of those 329 chemical tests that measured for benzene, 323 detected benzene while only six did not.

Dangerous toluene levels: Toluene, a toxin that can affect the central nervous system and harm developing fetuses, was found to exceed federal-mandated limits for drinking water 118 times.

via Center for Biological Diversity.

The best policy for fracking is no fracking at all.  The second best is a severance tax and / or performance bonds sufficient to clean up all the potential damage cause by fracking—if that is possible.

LINKS

U.S. Geological Survey:  Fracking is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in earthquakes by Jen Hayden for Daily Kos.   (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

Fracking Flowback From California Oil Wells Found to Contain Dangerous Levels of Carcinogenic and Toxic Chemicals by Mike Gaworecki for DeSmog Blog.

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