Slickwater, horizontal hydrofracking ("fracking") is a relatively new drilling technology that allows the fossil fuel industry to extract natural gas or oil from shale formations thousands of feet below the earth's surface. Among the many issues surrounding this extreme form of energy exploration, Grassroots is particularly concerned about potential health problems associated with the fracking process.
Read Ivan White's Report on radioactivity from fracking in the Marcellus Shale.
Read our Summary Report: Human Health Risks and Exposure Pathways of Proposed Horizontal Hydrofracking in New York State.
Disposal of radioactive waste: Wastewater and sludge from drilling in the Marcellus shale contains significant amounts of radioactive material that cannot either be disposed of or contained safely. Storage pits and containers leak, road spreading contaminates surrounding areas, and disposal into rivers and streams contaminates drinking water. This is one problem for which the gas industry has no good solution.
Water contamination: The chemical mixtures used in the drilling process, while secret, are known to contain chemicals linked to cancer and endocrine disruption, among other health problems. Through migration, spills, illegal dumping or vehicular accidents, these chemicals can enter the environment and permanently contaminate ground water supplies. Methane can leak from the well casings or through nearby abandoned wells, polluting ground water.
Air pollution: The drilling process produces harmful air contaminants including diesel exhaust from generators, pumps, compressors and thousands of truck trips required to transport water and materials to and from the site. Diesel exhaust is a known human carcinogen. Other air pollutants include silica dust from the sand used in the fracking mixtures, toxic chemicals burned in flaring operations, components of ozone, and methane (a potent greenhouse gas) escaping from wells, pipes and compressor stations.
Food contamination: Chemicals and radiation from fracking can find their way into air and water through multiple pathways, and eventually enter the food chain. Agricultural enterprises, including the organic farming, dairy and livestock industries, are threatened with contamination and irreversible economic failure.
Disposal of chemical waste: Toxic chemicals injected underground and heavy metals disloged from shale during the fracking process contaminate flowback fluid and drilling waste. Municipal wastewater treatment plants are not be equipped to handle these toxic chemicals; processing may damage the plants, and pre-treatment may not be able to reduce levels to meet Federal standards. Reports of illegal dumping of fracking waste are rampant in areas of Pennsylvania where fracking is being conducted.
Water Depletion: The fracking process requires millions of gallons of fresh water for each well. Once contaminated with chemicals and radioactivity, the only way to meet EPA discharge standards is to add many millions of gallons of additional water.
Industrialization of rural areas: Fracking operations create noise pollution, light pollution and increased traffic in residential and rural communities. Pipelines, heavy equipment and pits filled with drilling wastes will be widespread. All of this has been documented to negatively impact human health.
Get the science: Our Digest of Independent Science on Hydrofracking is the definitive guide to peer-reviewed science on the subject.
Read the EPA's critical comments on New York's proposed plans to monitor and regulate fracking activities in the state.