Thousands of cases of pollution of ground and surface waters with hydraulic fracturing chemicals and methane have been reported (1-4). Two recent studies have confirmed contamination of underground water by hydraulic fracturing (2, 3). Alarmingly, one of these found systematic contamination of water wells within 1 km of active Marcellus gas wells with shale methane, averaging 17-times the levels of more distant wells (3).
Contamination of fresh waters has occurred in all phases of shale gas mining, from blowouts, to underground contamination, to leaking wastewater pits, to tanker truck accidents (1). Based on 2005-2009 gas lease data and a “build-out analysis” of cumulative impacts of mining Marcellus shale gas, Tompkins County would expect the development of 2100 Marcellus gas wells that would result in 16,800 tons/year of sediment runoff, 336 leaking wells, and 42 incidents of ground water contamination (1, 6). Each well would use 5 million gallons of water amended with 167 tons of chemicals per hydraulic fracturing event (1).
Many of the 750 chemicals identified in hydraulic fracturing fluids can damage organs, disrupt hormone systems and reproductive cycles, cause cancer, induce developmental defects, and cause death (6-9). And a recent analysis of case studies provides compelling evidence that water contamination from gas drilling has caused such illnesses and death in livestock and humans (7).
The U.S. Geological Survey has noted that ubiquitous faults not recognized by the NYSDEC would provide conduits between fractured shale and underground waters (5). Neither the gas industry nor New York State has the capacity to properly cleanse or dispose of this toxic wastewater(1).
These facts, as well as the exemption of the gas industry from Federal environmental safeguards, lead us to suspect that hydraulic fracturing of deep shale formations presents a pervasive hazard to underground and surface waters.
Water Impacts References:
1. Tompkins County Council of Governments. 2011. Community impact assessment: High volume hydraulic fracturing: http://www.tompkins-co.org/tccog/
2. DiGiulio, D.C., R. T. Wilkin, C. Miller, and G. Oberley. 2011. Investigation of groundwater contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming. U. S. Env. Protection Agency draft report:http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/wy/pavillion/
3. Osborn S.G., Vengosh A., Warner N.R., and R.B. Jackson. 2011. Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108: 8172–8176: http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/cgc/pnas2011.pdf
4. Entrekin, S., M Evans-White, B. Johnston, and E. Hagenbuch. 2011. Rapid expansion of natural gas development poses a threat to surface waters. Frontiers in Ecology & Environment. 9: 503-511.
5. U.S. Geological Survey, New York Water Science Center. 2011. Comment on the Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement: http://www.scribd.com/doc/83492110/USGS-Letter-to-DEC