Monday, September 29, 2014

Fracking and Mining Endanger America's Fresh Water!

I lived in the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky (Knott County, KY) for a year and just outside the coal mining counties for 6 years (Madison County, KY). I have in-laws and friends  who've spent most of their adult lives in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields or very near them (Steve and Sue Sanders and their children; Tony Oppegard). I have seen firsthand what modern mining techniques do to streams, rivers, and aquifers. So much of Eastern Kentucky and other coal mining states are "Zones of National Sacrifice," as Harry Caudill, author of Night Comes to the Cumberlands, put it. Well I am not ready to offer Ohio up as a Zone of National Sacrifice. My county, Geauga County, is totally dependent on well water for everything. The greatest current threat to drinking water in my county and in Ohio (and really, in most of the nation) is the fracking boom, which Governor Kasich has welcomed with open arms. We won't have the disaster of coal mining in Geauga and surrounding counties, but we could be faced with the disaster of widespread fracking.

Recently RJ Sigmund, in his weekly digest of fracking issues, discussed the danger of fracking to fresh water supplies. Sigmund states:

Thirsty wells: Fracking consumes billions of gallons of water - Drillers in Ohio have used more than 4 billion gallons of water to frack horizontal shale wells since 2011. That’s a lot of water. Enough to fill one two-liter soda bottle for every person on the planet; or in terms that motorists in shale country can relate to, 800,000 tanker-loads of water.  The state surpassed the thousand-well mark in August. A Repository review of water usage reported by drillers to FracFocus, a national fracking-chemical registry, as of Sept. 12, shows:
    • • Of the first 1,031 Utica and Marcellus shale wells drilled, FracFocus listed the amount of water used to frack 662.
    • • Water use for all 1,031 wells could approach 6.7 billion gallons, based on average water-use rates per county.
    • • Chesapeake Energy used 2 billion gallons on 411 reported wells.
    • • Three wells in Ohio topped 17 million gallons.
    • • Average water usage was 6.1 million gallons.
    • • Fracking could consume more than 10 billion gallons of water if all current well permits are drilled.
    • • Some wells used more water than what drillers estimated on permit applications.
How can this water usage be done in Geauga County without endangering the water supply to every single Geauga household, business, and factory? 

Sigmund also discusses fracking waste-water and injection wells. These further endanger the water supply in our area--permanently, in light of average human lifespans. This is short-term gain (the fracking money, which makes a few people very wealth), and long-term disaster.

Here is what Sigmund writes about Beautiful Ohio, injection waste-water capital of America: 

Ohio is cited in GAO report for fracking waste disposal - Drilling – Ohio -- Only Ohio allows fracking waste disposal without advance disclosure of chemical contaminants. : The federal Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a new report ( ) disclosing that Ohio alone of eight states studied allows contaminated waste fluids from oil and gas wells to be disposed without advance disclosure of the contaminants it contains. The report had been requested by members of U.S. Senate and House environment committees to disclose the level of disclosure on the nature and toxicity of such wastes since “fracking” of deep shale rock layers to unlock oil and natural gas deposits has become common. The report concluded that of the eight states studied (California, Colorado, Kentucky, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas), each state - with the sole exception of Ohio - required waste disposal companies to provide information on the characteristics of the waste to be disposed before they could receive a permit to “inject” the waste. The primary disposal method for these wastes are injection wells, which inject the waste fluids, frequently under high pressure, into deep rock formations where, in theory, it cannot contaminate sources of drinking water. The report acknowledges that the amount of oil and gas well wastes has increased dramatically since the advent of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and that at least 2 billion gallons of contaminated wastes are disposed in injection wells daily; this water is also laced with a variety of chemicals, many toxic and many whose nature is undisclosed, to fracture the rock so the oil and gas it contains can be mobilized. Much of the contaminated fluid injected in this fashion is then forced back to the surface where it is collected and trucked off site for disposal at an injection well.The report reveals that many of the states studied have elaborate requirements to confirm the nature of this waste fluid before it can be approved for disposal. In stark contrast, Ohio requires no disclosure of the characteristics of the waste fluid either before, or after, an injection well permit is issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). 

This has to stop. We have to stop it!

p.s. About 35 years ago I heard the great folksinger and Perry County native Jean Ritchie sing the song "Black Waters." The song was then sung about the impact of coal mining on the water in Eastern Kentucky streams and rivers. That same song can be sung today in areas affected by fracking. It seems we have learned nothing. We are making the same mistakes over and over again.

Jean Ritchie sings "Black Waters" in the following video:


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bob... you've added a new term to my vocabulary on this topic, 'area of national sacrifice'. You're right, no more of this. We won't sacrifice our Beautiful Ohio, and we will make sure that the coal country counties are healed. It's possible!

View from the North Coast said...

Isn't "Zone of National Sacrifice" a terrible concept? I think Harry Caudill himself was saddened by the idea.

I hope the damaged earth can be healed!