An environmental advocacy group has joined a growing call to have hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling banned in the U.S.
Food & Water Watch, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., says fracking driling at its current rate poses a serious threat to fresh water supplies in the U.S.; so much so, it threatens to send the nation and globe into its next “water crisis.”
The group believes the nation’s current infatuation with fracking drilling as a means of weening dependence on foreign oil has sparked interest in the technology in other countries. As this continues, the risk to global public health and water supplies increases.
Fracking employs the use of hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water at a single active well site. It combines more than 600 chemicals and sand with that water and a drill and forces them through an underground horizontal well shaft until it reaches shale formations buried a few miles below the surface. When the well’s contents reach the rock, shale is blasted apart and natural gas is released. The gas and drilling contents then rush back to the surface, where it is all supposed to be collected, stored and disposed of properly.
Poor well construction has led to myriad problems at fracking well sites. In actuality, the poor construction of wells has only added to fears that fracking, overall, is a generally dangerous active, or at least one that puts an incredible strain on a delicate natural resource like water. Even if it were all captured as it returns to the surface, the fresh water used in fracking has now been contaminated with methane gas, diesel fuel, and dozens more heavy metals and other toxic agents. The water is essentially useless until it can be put through rigorous treatment processes. Efforts to remove these contaminants in states where fracking is prevalent have enjoyed only limited success.
As more fracking wells are being opened in the U.S., Food & Water Watch reports that some countries in Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa are dealing with the same dilemma. Drilling has been banned in France and Bulgaria but is expanding in places like Poland, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, and China.
The environmental group, in its newly published study, “Fracking: The New Global Water Crisis,” believes fracking advocates in other countries would be wise to look deeper into the problems being caused by the gas extraction method in the U.S. While booms in the industry could mean a temporary boost to local economies, initial estimates of untold wealth coming from fracking wells in the U.S. have been drastically scaled back in recent months.
More importantly, the effect on the environment caused by fracking should prove most worrisome. People living nearest active fracking wells have complained since the beginning of the U.S. boom that their air and water quality have been compromised directly as a result of fracking drilling in their communities. In some areas, methane gas build-up believed to be a result of fracking has rendered some private water wells unusable. Residents believe fracking has released unnatural amounts of methane gas underground, eventually affecting groundwater supplies that then impact water wells to residences in rural areas.
In a statement accompanying the report, the executive director at Food & Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter said, “Shale gas drilling’s benefits can be summed up quickly: good for the oil and gas industry, and bad for rural communities. Legislators around the world need to learn what’s happened to these communities in the U.S. as a cautionary tale and implement fracking bans in their countries before it’s too late.”