Frack Waste Decimates Stand of West Virginia Forest

In a controlled test conducted by the US Forest Service initiated in 2008, frack waste was applied to a contained 1/4-acre of deciduous forest in West Virginia. I’ve been saying it for months, “Test, Baby, Test.” By that, I meant independent baseline testing for deep and shallow methane in all local water wells within the one-mile frack zone; monthly testing at municipal intakes downstream of operations and facilities where recycled frack flowback deposits are made (for things like radium 226, strontium, barium and bromide); and manifesting of ALL waste water, with no exemptions for shallow wells or wells producing less than 80,000 gallons. It’s unlikely, by the way, that a stiffer regulatory environment would stifle this industry one bit. They claim to recycle nearly 100% of their flowback, anyway, right? It shouldn’t make a difference then. They want the gas, and they’re gonna get it. Pennsylvania is simply selling itself cheap and easy.

Drillers should be doing the testing, leaving the burden of proving that fracking is safe to them, not the other way around. This year, Pennsylvania has a minimal budget for environmental testing. What’s more, the DEP wants to marginalize an intra-state agency that is calling for more testing, characterizing the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is charged with protecting the drinking water for over 16 million people, as some rogue office holding up the gas works and, you guessed it, calling their regulatory efforts “redundant.” If that sounds redundant to you, it’s because that’s the same language they use when referring to the EPA’s regulatory efforts over the gas industry.

So the US Forest Service study deserves its due!

According to the Shea Gunther, posting on the perennially cheeky Mother Nature Network, Fracking wastewater devours all life in West Virginia forest. The study results weren’t so dramatic as all that, but the effects of frack waste on plant life in the plant life was virtually as destructive as a Godzilla attack. Here’s what actually happened:

“In June 2008, 303,000 L of hydrofracturing fluid from a natural gas well were applied to a 0.20-ha area of mixed hardwood forest on the Fernow Experimental Forest, West Virginia. During application, severe damage and mortality of ground vegetation was observed, followed about 10 d later by premature leaf drop by the overstory trees. Two years after fluid application, 56% of the trees within the fluid application area were dead.”

You can read a full abstract of the US Forest Service study, Land Application of Hydrofracturing Fluids Damages a Deciduous Forest Stand in West Virginia by Mary Beth Adams posted on the American Society of Agronomy website. It’s certainly something to think about the next time a frack wastewater truck flips over.

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3 Responses to “Frack Waste Decimates Stand of West Virginia Forest”

  1. M R Hart Says:

    So, this study basically tells us that if one were to spill the contents of 16 semi trucks full of flowback water-(basically SALT WATER) and confine it to an area some 145 feet square, vegetation will die.
    Is this some surprise? Have we not known that salt water inhibits the growth of most plants that live on the earths surface? How much green foliage does one see where the tide flows in and out?
    What an incredible WASTE of taxpayer dollars to prove something WE HAVE KNOWN FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS!

  2. keeptapwatersafe Says:

    I see your point, Mr. Hart. Frack waste is extremely salty stuff and its detrimental effect on plant life is established fact. Personally, I’d rather see US tax-payer dollars spent to better ensure drillers and haulers don’t spill a single drop of it! Instead, gas drilling is being ramped up, while DEP budgets are cut – by $165 million. I can’t help but wonder, and so I’ll ask, is there anything you would have the state test in order to ascertain that drilling and waste disposal, as it is currently practiced, is truly safe? thanks.

  3. Sarah Says:

    I think this is BS – a story meant to scare ppeole with poor facts. Try some actual journalism for a change…

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