Top 3 Catastrophes Linked to Natural Gas Fracking

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking, there’s a ton of natural gas available on the market right now. Those in the industry hail the practice as a blessing, allowing gas companies to access deposits locked in previously impenetrable rock. Although many have trumpeted the resulting decline in gas prices as proof that fracking needs to continue, they’ve kept details of its undesirable consequences closer to the chest.

It doesn’t take years of scientific studies to get an idea of what fracking can and is doing to the environment. Slowly but surely, the effects of fracking and fracking wastewater storage have emerged from those in communities closest to the drilling operations. These men, women and children are living with the risks of fracking every day. It’s their homes and businesses, their health and wellness that’s being affected.

Still skeptical? All right then. Read on for legitimate scientific studies that have linked natural gas fracking to three horrible catastrophes over the last few years.

1. Flammable Drinking Water

If you’ve seen the movie Gasland, you already know that one of the first and most obvious ways to tell if your community has been poisoned by fracking is to turn on the faucet. In scores of towns all over America, residents have noted that what should be clean drinking water is actually a flammable cocktail of untold toxicity.

In May 2011, the first scientific study linking natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing with a pattern of drinking water contamination was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The peer-reviewed research found that levels of flammable methane gas in drinking water wells increased to dangerous levels when those water supplies were close to natural gas wells. They also found that the gas detected at high levels in the water was the same type of gas that energy companies were extracting, strongly implying that the gas may be seeping underground through natural or manmade faults and fractures, or coming from cracks in the well structure itself.

The EPA, which insists that fracking is completely harmless, seems to be at odds with its own research that found two Pennsylvania water wells to be contaminated by natural gas with a chemical fingerprint from the heavily-fracked Marcellus Shale.

2. Poisoned Food Supply

The Nation recently published an article about Jacki Schilke, a cattle rancher in the Bakken shale area of North Dakota. There are 32 oil and gas wells within three miles of her ranch. In the summer of 2010, there was a problem at one of the wells. Soon Schilke observed cattle limping with swollen legs and infections. Slowly, the cows stopped producing milk, some of the animals lost from 60 to 80 pounds in a week and their tails fell off.

Air testing on the Schilke ranch found benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene and xylene — toxic substances that can cause serious illnesses, including cancer. Water testing found sulfates, chromium, chloride strontium and selenium.

Earlier this year, Michelle Bamberger, an Ithaca veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, published the first (and, so far, only) peer-reviewed report to suggest a link between fracking and illness in food animals. The study chronicled the experiences of 24 farmers in six shale-gas states whose livestock experienced neurological, reproductive and acute gastrointestinal problems.

3. Manmade Earthquakes

Creating tiny fractures through which toxic chemicals and fracking wastewater can reach public drinking water supplies isn’t the only thing that happens when natural gas companies drill a new well. At this week’s annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, attendees will be treated to not one but two new studies linking a recent increase in significant earthquakes to the reinjection of wastewater fluids from unconventional oil and gas drilling.

The first study notes “significant earthquakes are increasingly occurring within the United States midcontinent” and concludes that a recent 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma was “likely triggered by fluid injection.” The second study, focusing on the Raton Basin of Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico, was conducted by a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) team.

The study concludes “the majority, if not all of the earthquakes since August 2001 have been triggered by the deep injection of wastewater related to the production of natural gas from the coal-bed methane field here.” In April and May, two small earthquakes near Blackpool, in England also contributed to suspicions of a link between earthquakes and fracking. Surprisingly, the company responsible,  Cuadrilla Resources, admitted that its shale fracking operations were indeed responsible.

Related Reading:

Ohio Fracking Wastewater Test Reveals Toxic Mess

Accidental Vote Legalizes Fracking In North Carolina

Vermont First State To Ban Fracking


Image via marcellusprotest/Flickr

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Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

... What you[also] don't know [is that] when you plug that well, how much is going
to find its way to the surface without going up the well bore. And there
are lots of good indications that plugging the well doesn't really work
long-term. There's still some pressure down there even though it's not
enough pressure to be commercially produced. And sooner or later the
steel casing there is going to rust out, and the cement sooner or later
is going to crumble. We may have better cements now, we may have
slightly better techniques of packing the cement and mud into the well
bore to close it up, but even if nothing comes up through the fissures
in the rock layers above, where it was fracked, those well bores will
deteriorate over time. And there is at least one study showing that 100
percent of plugs installed in abandoned wells fail within 100 years and
many of them much sooner."

The Eiffel Tower still exists because every seven years 60,000 tons of
paint are used to protect it. All steel rusts. It doesn’t matter that
inch thick casings are used to seal the pipes. All concrete cracks. Over
time, the poison will seep back up into the water we use for drinking,
farming, and recreation destroying the livelihoods of all the people who
rely on them.

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

… We’ll go on producing natural gas and keep the cost low by having the taxpayers pick
up the cost of dealing with the consequences of global warming. Obama
proposed some very positive steps toward developing alternative energies
but he is not addressing the impact that methane has on global warming.

… I think we have wasted a lot of time that should have gone into
seriously looking into and developing alternative energies. And we need
to stop wasting that time and get going on it. But the difficult part is
that the industry talks about, well, this is a bridge fuel [that] will
carry us until alternatives [are developed] but nobody is building them.
It’s not a bridge unless you build the foundations for a bridge on the
other side, and nobody’s building it.

... 20, 30, 100 years down
the road we don't know how much methane is going to be making its way
up. And if you do hundreds of thousands of wells, there's a good chance
you're going to have a lot of methane coming up, exacerbating global
warming. … That is what Tony Ingraffea is talking about as part of the
problem. [Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum professor of engineering at
Cornell University, in 2011 co-authored a landmark study on the
greenhouse-gas footprint of high-volume fracking.]

... What you[also] don't know [is that] when you plug that well, how much is going
to find its way to the surface without going up the well bore. And there
are lots of

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

"...fracking poses a threat [16] to the safety of drinking water and so may
arouse widespread opposition, while the economics of shale gas may, in
the end, prove less attractive than currently assumed. In fact, many
experts now believe that the prospects for shale gas have been oversold
[17], and that stepped-up investment will result in ever-diminishing

Louis W. Allstadt, an executive vice president of Mobil Oil who ran the
company’s exploration and production operations in the western
hemisphere works against the fracking industry in his retirement. He
describes the scale of the fracking problems we face:

“The industry actually has a lot of very smart people working for it. As long
as the box that they’re working in is manageable, they can do a very
good job. I think that what you’ve got in fracking is ‘How do we work in
a box this big,’ narrowly defining the problem, [he holds his hands a
foot apart in front of him] when you’re really working in a huge box [he
stretches his arms out wide] The real box is as big as the globe and
the atmosphere. And they’re not seeing the consequences of moving
outside the small box that they’re working in.

… We’ll go on producing natural gas and keep the cost low by having the taxpayers pick
up the cost of dealing with the consequences of global warming. Obama
proposed some very

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

John Waldman at Yale Environment 360 talks about the perceptual shift that takes place:

"Every generation takes the natural environment it encounters during childhood
as the norm against which it measures environmental decline later in
life. With each ensuing generation, environmental degradation generally
increases, but each generation takes that degraded condition as the new
normal. Scientists call this phenomenon “shifting baselines" or
“inter-generational amnesia," and it is part of a larger and more
nebulous reality — the insidious ebbing of the ecological and social
relevancy of declining and disappearing species."

“And now these corporate giants are having an Enron moment,” a retired
geologist from a major oil and gas company wrote in a February e-mail
about other companies invested in shale gas. “They want to bend light to
hide the truth.”

"The level of radioactivity in the wastewater has sometimes been hundreds or
even thousands of times the maximum allowed by the federal standard for
drinking water."

"...fracking poses a threat [16] to the safety of drinking water and so may
arouse widespread opposition, while the economics of shale gas may, in
the end, prove less attractive than currently assu

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

The total water consumption of all the animals who’ve ever lived is hard to even
conceive, but at the low end, it is certainly 10 million times the total
human water consumption (and that doesn’t include the plants).

Together,the creatures that have lived on Earth have easily required a thousand
times the amount of liquid fresh water available on the planet,”according to Charles David Fishman in his book, “The Big Thirst.”

We obviously expect some future technology to solve our problems. I think that is short sighted. I don’t believe our children are going to be able to keep the poisoned water separate from the sweet water because drilling through the water table to get to the natural gasexposes us to a risk that never ends. Once those steel pipes have been
planted underground and filled with poisoned water, who can possibly know what shape they’re in? How long will the industry be responsible for their condition--10 years after the fracking is over? 100? 1000? There are no solutions, that’s for sure.

A new study estimates that fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region can migrate into underground drinking water
supplies far more quickly than experts projected.

John Waldman at Yale Environment 360 talks about the perceptual shift that takes place:

"Every generation ta

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

How much water has the world ever used?

“Although we think of the Earth as getting crowded, and it is, the 7 billion
people alive now represent a tiny slice of the history of human beings.
Demographers estimate that over the course of the last fifty thousand
years, about 100 million people have lived on Earth. A typical person
needs a minimum of 3 liters of drinking water a day. If we imagine that,
stretching way back into prehistory, the average life span of those 100
billion people was a conservative thirty years, that means that all the
people who have ever lived on Earth have drunk 3,300 trillion liters of

And that’s just the people.

The animals outnumber the people 1000:1. And they stretch back in time hundreds of millions of years. An elephant drinks 150 liters of water a day. How much water did
a Tyrannosaurus Rexs drink each day? It may not be known for sure, but
scientists have found a spot where a dinosaur paused one day in the
Mesozoic era to pee on a sandy patch of ground. The resulting trench,
from just a single squat, is at least the size of a modern bathtub, 40
to 50 gallons.

More important, people have been around for just 50,000 years. Tens of millions of dinosaurs lived on Earth for 165 million years. Drinking water everyday, and peeing. The total water consumption of all the animals who’ve ever lived is hard to even
conceive, but at the low end, it is c

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

River vs. river: Corps manages Missouri, Mississippi rivers for conflicting goals

If you are going to drink fracked water, you should know a few
things. Here's where you can learn a lot about the multi-layered
fracking problem quickly.;

And as you're reading more, you eventually come across the story from
"Businessweek" about how T. Boone Pickens has spent $100 million to buy
all the drinking water rights he can get his hands on because that's
what is going to be in demand when the oil companies are done fracking.

Here’s what the industry is telling itself about the problems it’s creating by polluting that much water:

And how is that going for them–creating opportunities?

How much water is available on the planet?

How mu

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

Insurance companies do not pay for damage from man-made quakes. Considering that Southern Illinois is perched atop two major seismic zones, that is a huge problem. When it comes to fracking, I like to focus on water issues. I think they are the most difficult to comprehend because of the very nature of water. We've always recycled it.

Let's start with the basics. This is what poisons your trillions of gallons of water water (aside from the radioactivity).


It’s been documented that many of these fracking chemicals have more than 10
detrimental health effects. What happens when you put them together?
Are they more poisonous? The

Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago