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What the Fracking Frack?

Updated on August 11, 2015

California has been struggling with drought for so many years that the local farmers have had to get a little creative. Fracking was then thought to solve their problems and save them thousands! Drillers were pumping much of the liquid that would come out, back underground into disposal wells. Now, amid a four-year dry spell, more companies are looking to recycle their water or sell it to parched farms as the industry tries to get ahead of environmental lawsuits and new regulations. However, it would seem that this cheap, new system may not be entirely safe for our environment or our consumption.

What is Fracking?

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure, which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. Waste water produced from this process is highly toxic and filled with a variety of chemicals. There have even been cases reported of people who live near these fracking sites setting fire to the water and air that comes through the pipes. “It’s hard for the oil industry to get rid of, so it’s a win-win for the oil companies when they are able to sell the water,” Chevron spokesperson Abby Auffant said in a statement.

With this in mind, I think it's important to remember that the food from these crops many times are what we are feeding to our families. So, how safe is it? Are there regulations? Are there tests that are done?

Water should not be flammable!!!


Testing according to the LA Times

In the May 3 Section A, an article about the use of recycled oil field water in California agriculture said that samples contained acetone and methylene chloride after treatment. Acetone was found in testing in 2014, but not in a March 2015 test. An accompanying graphic cited the levels of three chemicals found in untreated oil field water: oil, 240,000-480,000 parts per million; acetone, 440-530 parts per billion; and methylene chloride, 82-89 parts per billion. However, the graphic omitted the levels found in tests of treated water: oil, 130-1,300 parts per million; acetone, 57-79 parts per billion; and methylene chloride, 26-56 parts per billion. Also, the source of the untreated water was misidentified. The samples were from the Poso Creek Oil Field, not an oil field owned by Chevron. And Blake Sanden was identified as an agriculture extension agent for UC Davis. Sanden works for the statewide UC Agriculture and Natural Resources program. —

Many people are finding that this can be dangerous for the environment and the food chain. “It’s an experiment that the state of California and the oil industry performs without consumer consent.” “In Chevron’s own report we found benzine and acetone, which are carcinogenic” reported Madeline Stano on the Center of Race, Poverty, and the Environment. With this report, we as consumers can start gathering evidence for or against fracking.

This waste water has been used on California's crops for over 20 years. The local farmers argue that they are simply recycling the waste water and that they are following the filtration regulations. “We’re in compliance with all the testing requirements. There’s a petrochemical content in our permit and we have always met and been under it,” Auffant said in defense of the operation..


Pros of Fracking:

1. Fossil fuels are a great reserve for energy. They are largely untapped, especially under the landmass of North America. Fracking helps in accessing this natural treasure which is a better alternative to coal and thermal power and a safer alternative to nuclear energy.
2. Countries exploring gas wells using fracking can become self dependent as far as energy is concerned. It would make the global oil industry much more stable and less predatory.
3. Fracking doesn’t threaten the groundwater reserves, apparently. The reasoning provided by some experts is that natural oil or gas reserves are much below that the water table levels.
4. Natural gas is a better alternative because it has much less carbon emissions.
5. Fracking has developed into an industry which has generated lots of jobs in the recent past and is likely to offer plenty of new jobs in the near future.

Cons of Fracking:

1. The groundwater reserves do face a threat from fracking. Even if the oil and natural gas wells are beneath or much below the water tables, the sand and chemicals being used along with water during fracking have the chance of getting mixed with groundwater or surface water. That can lead to massive contamination and pollution.
2. Many companies don’t disclose the nature of the mixture that is being used in fracking. What chemicals are used, what kind of sand is being used and how is the entire mixture prepared or if there is any risk of the mixture causing any harm to the workers or the immediate environment while the blasting is done; all such realities are unknown.
3. Noise and light pollution is unavoidable with fracking but the risk of air pollution is much more worrisome. Scientists are yet to figure out if fracking causes harmful gases to escape from underground rock formations and get blended with the air that locals around the wells would breathe.
4. Fracking uses a lot of water and wastes a lot in the process as well. That certainly isn’t a comforting reality.

5 important and noteworthy facts from the EPA Reports:

With the help of Erin Brockovich, five important and noteworthy facts from the EPA's (Environmental Protection agency) report have come to light.

1. Oil and gas companies want you to know as little about fracking as possible. This EPA report offers no new research on whether fracking contaminates water supplies. Instead it relies on “available data and literature,” including previous investigations by state regulators into fracking-related water pollution. The main reason for this is that oil and gas companies did all they could to make gathering new data impossible. And they were able to do that because Congress and successive administrations have exempted them from so many federal pollution rules.

2. Opportunities abound for disaster. One thing the EPA’s report does detail is the many risks that fracking operations pose to drinking water both above and below ground— from mixing the fracking chemicals to injecting the fracking fluid into the well to handling the millions of gallons of toxic, radioactive waste water. So many ways that something could go wrong! Now you know why this report is more than 1,000 pages long.

3. Fracking is happening close to where we live. According to the EPA, “Between 2000 and 2013, approximately 9.4 million people lived within one mile of a hydraulically fractured well.”

4. Lots of fracking is also happening close to our water supplies. Again, according to the EPA: “Approximately 6,800 sources of drinking water for public water systems were located within one mile of at least one hydraulically fractured well … These drinking water sources served more than 8.6 million people year-round in 2013.” Suppose you’re lucky enough to live more than a mile from the nearest fracking site? EPA: “Hydraulic fracturing can also affect drinking water resources outside the immediate vicinity of a hydraulically fractured well.” What’s more, the EPA points out that in some places, such as Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, fracking happens at relatively shallow depths, where “oil and gas resources and drinking water resources co-exist in the same formation.”

5. What they don’t know could hurt you. Of the 1,076 chemicals used in fracking that the EPA could identify, the agency was able to assess the chemical, physical, and toxicological properties for fewer than half. Of those, the majority have the potential to “persist in the environment as long-term contaminants.” Great, but how many of them are potentially carcinogenic? The EPA could find data for about 90 of them, but offered a bureaucratic shrug of the shoulders as to what level of exposure people might have to those carcinogens. Feeling reassured yet?

We didn’t need 1,000 pages to figure out the obvious. We don’t even need 1,000 words. Here’s what we know: Fracking is a nationwide game of Russian roulette that puts an essential resource — drinking water — at risk every single day. The sooner it stops, the better.

— Erin Brockovich

Stop! Please take the pol!

Are you Pro Fracking or Con Fracking?

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Fracking is starting to be banned!


Fracking is kinda grey

After looking through some evidence and weighing the pros and cons I think it's safe to assume that Fracking isn't exactly black or white. It's more grey. The pros and the cons tend to intertwine and make it difficult to truly choose between the two sides. I am all for recycling and trying anything and everything to keep the crops growing, and Fracking does save the farmers money. However, I am more interested in not eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. There has to be another way to help the drought in California. Stop the Fracking!


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    • crazycatlady7 profile image

      Bailey DeWitt 2 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      Thank you everyone for the supportive words!!! I try to use my writing for the greater good and I hope you will follow and support my work and share it with your friends and family as I would for you!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I think I'm like you. I'm kind of on the fence on this. On the one hand, fracking seems to reduce dependence on foreign sources of oil, and to bring prices down. On the other hand, we haven't been fracking long enough to get a clear view on how it affects our environment and our health. Great hub.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 2 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great Hub, Bailey. Fracking certainly does have its pros and cons. I believe that California's extreme drought situation has them leaning towards the pros because of the dire need for water. But beware, fracking and waste water can be very dangerous. Hopefully enough testing is being done on the water.

    • crazycatlady7 profile image

      Bailey DeWitt 2 years ago from Buffalo, NY

      Thank you Wayne! I think that's what scares me most about this whole thing is the unknown. I think I will be focusing my produce buying to the local farmers markets. New York is one of the few places that have banned the use of fracking as a source to water the crops. Thanks for the support you guys!

    • profile image

      wgrenning 2 years ago

      Great article and quite correct with your facts!

      You are right on my the money with the huge unknowns of the exact chemicals found in the fracking fluids. Big business and government have listed these as "Trade Secrets" and as such the fracking companies are not required to state what's in them !

    • profile image

      Jaime Santos 2 years ago

      Ty for the hub. Water is life, we must take as much care as possible when dealing with it.

    • Chrissy DeWitt profile image

      Chrissy DeWitt 2 years ago

      Freaking nailed it!!!!