Let's be real, fracking isn't exactly breaking news these days. For those of us who're passionate about environmental issues, we know that fracking is terrible and has serious consequences for our planet. But it wasn't until I heard how residents directly affected by these fracking sites have been treated by the oil companies that I really understood just how deep the problem goes.
What in the world is fracking?
Before we can dive into why fracking is so harmful to the planet, let's make sure we understand how it works.
Now of course this is a more condensed (and animated) explanation of how fracking works, but you get the idea. The thing is, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see why there might be serious consequences to pumping the ground full of chemicals in order to make *more* chemicals.
"The oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the SafeDrinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants underthe Clean Air Act.
Between 2005 and 2009, the hydraulic fracturing companies used 95 products containing13 different carcinogens.20 These included naphthalene (a possible human carcinogen), benzene(a known human carcinogen), and acrylamide (a probable human carcinogen). Overall, thesecompanies injected 10.2 million gallons of fracturing products containing at least onecarcinogen."
— U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce minority staff, "Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracking, 2011"
Where do all those toxins go?
Fracking has been known to contribute to earthquakes, climate change, droughts, and, worst of all, extreme water contamination. While harmful toxins have serious long-term consequences for everyone, those who live closest to drilling sites suffer them firsthand.
"Residents began complaining of fouled water near Pavillion in the mid-1990s, and the problems appeared to get worse around 2004. Several residents complained that their well water turned brown shortly after gas wells were fracked nearby, and, for a time, gas companies operating in the area supplied replacement drinking water to residents.
Beginning in 2008, the EPA took water samples from resident's drinking water wells, finding hydrocarbons and traces of contaminants that seemed like they could be related to fracking. In 2010, another round of sampling confirmed the contamination, and the EPA, along with federal health officials, cautioned residents not to drink their water and to ventilate their homes when they bathed because the methane in the water could cause an explosion."
— Abrahm Lustgarten and Nicholas Kusnetz of ProPublica, "Feds Link Water Contamination to Fracking for the First Time"
What's it like living next to a fracking site?
In the aptly titled "Fracking Nightmare," Pennsylvania resident Sherry Vargson shares what life has been like since selling part of her property to the Chesapeake Energy Corp.
And if bubbling and steaming water weren't enough to convince you, Sherry demonstrated just how toxic her tap water is by lighting a match next to her running faucet.
Umm ... I'm not a scientist or anything, but I'm pretty sure water is NOT supposed to be flammable. Sherry thought this was pretty suspect too, so she contacted the state Department of Environmental Protection, which found excessive levels of methane in her home, measuring over 56.3 milligrams per liter. That's when they shared that typically anything over 3 milligrams should be controlled with monitors and a proper ventilation system. Yikes. And while Chesapeake Energy did eventually bring Sherry a ventilation system, they acted as if flammable water was perfectly normal, saying, "There's natural occurring methane in the wells already."
In addition to bubbly water, gassy showers, and flaming sinks, Sherry has had to relocate her farm animals and order drinking water from a local company — all because her water's "fracked." I don't know about you, but to me, this is some seriously scary stuff.
How can we stand up to oil companies and stop fracking?
As of January 2015, fracking is taking place in 22 states. And while plenty of states aren't currently affected, those in rural areas could be next. But the good news is that plenty of communities are winning the fight against drilling in their neighborhoods.
Dryden, New York, is just one small town that was successful in banning fracking, along with 105 others since 2011.
And while environmentalists and small towns across the country are working hard to put a stop to fracking, they need all the help they can get. Whether you live in a community that's been affected by fracking or just want a healthier planet, Environment America has a list of resources, petitions, and legislation you can support based on where you live.