Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” is the practice of drilling into the Earth’s surface and fracturing the rock beneath it by injecting fluid into the cracks of the rocks. Large fissures allow oil and gas to flow out and into wells where it can be extracted. Fracking is very hazardous to the environment as well as human health, and the negative impacts of this practice make it impractical and immoral.
A huge problem with hydraulic fracturing is its impact on groundwater. During the entire process, methane gas and extremely toxic chemicals percolate out from the well and pollute the surrounding groundwater. This water is then used by the surrounding communities, putting them in danger.
In fact, over 1,000 documented cases have reported water contamination near areas where fracking has occurred. Dangerous health implications have also been linked to the ingestion of this water, with many cases of sensory, respiratory and neurological damage being reported. These health risks are not worth the reward that fracking provides!
Thousands of documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claim that the wastewater created during this process is sometimes hauled to treatment plants that can’t properly handle the water, so it is then dumped into rivers that supply drinking water to those nearby. What makes this even scarier is that this water contains levels of radioactivity that are far higher than what federal regulators say is safe. I think it’s safe to say that nobody wants a cold glass of radioactivity to quench his or her thirst.
To get a sense of just how much wastewater is produced, just one single well can produce more than a million gallons of this toxic fluid. Methane concentrations are an astonishing 17 times higher in drinking water wells that are near fracking sites, compared to those that are not. This fact blew my mind, and I think it should be receiving much more attention than it is now.
This practice of hydraulic fracturing isn’t just contaminating water; it’s wasting it too. The average well will use 5.6 million gallons of clean water per “frack,” which in my opinion is a gigantic waste. Many countries have trouble supplying people with enough water to survive, so why do we think it’s moral to use this much just for fracking? An average family in the U.S. uses around 300 gallons of water a day, give or take. So water used for just one frack could supply an entire household with water for 51 years! I personally feel like it should be obvious that this use of water is a waste, but obviously not everybody agrees with me.
Ninety percent of the water used in fracking is completely removed from the water cycle, as it never resurfaces. By altering the water cycle in this way, it increases the intensity of droughts in areas where there is a stress on water. It also reduces the amount of water that can be used for other reasons, such as crop irrigation. With demand for water being as high as it already is, I don’t think that using this much solely for fracking is smart or practical.
Now let’s talk a little bit about fracking’s impact on the climate, because yes, it does that too. Methane leaks out during the fracking process, and this greenhouse gas is very effective at trapping heat. In fact, it traps 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide, making it an absolute contributor to global warming. If enough methane gas leaks out before it can be burned in a power plant, then in terms of climate it is no better than burning coal! I hope that this aspect of fracking will alarm environmentalists enough to take action, because global warming and climate change is not a subject we should ignore.
A final interesting but note-worthy impact of fracking is that the fracking process actually causes earthquakes! Geologically stable areas across the U.S. have experienced movements in faults that hadn’t previously moved in millions of years. It’s impossible to predict where future fracking-caused earthquakes will occur, making it even more worrisome. Many state governments have been reluctant in admitting that there is a correlation between fracking and earthquakes, but Oklahoma’s government just recently came around. They released a statement admitting that there was strong evidence that many of the earthquakes in the state were caused by hydraulic fracturing. Earthquakes personally scare the hell out of me and I’m not too fond of anything that increases the chances of the ground beneath me rumbling around!
Hydraulic fracturing is dangerous and environmentally costly. States in the U.S. as well as the federal government need to invest in renewable energies such as wind and solar power in order to terminate the diversely negative effects of fracking.