Glossary of Problems
Fracking for Natural Gas in the Delaware River Watershed Region, which is sitting on top of a concentration of sweet spots in the Marcellus Shale formation, brings a host of issues and problems. Most notable is the way fracking seems to be ‘fracturing’ otherwise quiet, if economically stressed, communities by pitting neighbors’ divergent interests against one another. NG is creating serious strife. Here’s a list of some of the largest problems confronting communities in Pennsylvania, and what they mean:
Abandoned Wells: A network underground of fractures, seething with migrating, unstable fluids and gases. Pennsylvania has more than 100,000.
Air Contamination: Toxic, air-born particulates emitted from the drilling, compression, transport and waste disposal results in asthma and other respiratory afflictions in people, also contributes to pollution in the natural hydrological cycle.
Blow Out: Gas wells are fracked at extremely high upwards pressure, blow out preventors are installed to contain this pressure. Sadly, the same basic technology used on the doomed BP Deep Water Horizon rig is being used on gas wells in Pennsylvania today.
Brine: The extremely salty solution expelled along with natural gas from a hyrdrofractured gas well.
Capped Well Management: Wells can ooze gases and liquids long after they’ve been capped. This decreases over time, but requires regular maintenance
Emergency Response: A sad joke.
Fish Kill: A stream that once supported fish and aquatic life suddenly dies. Birds don’t visit anymore. Frogs die off. Soil quality deteriorates downstream.
Flowback: Nasty toxic, carcinogenic, often radioactive fluid, many million of gallons of which shoot out of a fracked gas well at extremely high pressures.
Ground Water Contamination: Chemical migration, which can vary depending on location, occurs in the local water table, affecting however many households and businesses use water from wells drilled into it.
Job Creation: Something we desperately need! But will we have dirty gas jobs, or green energy jobs requiring a greater understanding of our environment and maybe a college degree? Raise the knowledge base and the tax base goes up, too!
Land Fragmentation: Carving up forests for pipeline, trucks barreling through at all hours, land that is not merely “changing” but being destroyed.
Livestock Grazing Hazards: Overflow from open frack waste water pits after heavy rain, or industrial accident, into open meadow and streams used for grazing livestock. Animals who are exposed suffer and die terribly.
Methane Migration: When underground gases migrate, they can collect and gather in a structure, and when they are in high enough concentrations, they’re prone explode. Methane also migrates in underground water supplies.
Mini-Earthquake: It’s still an earthquake, only it happens deep underground – a lot.
Noise Pollution: From drilling, intense trucking, compressors, etc., 24/7.
Percolation (Deep Percolation): Fluids used in the fracking process, or stimulated by the geological alteration, bubble up to the water table sometimes.
Radionuclides: This is the most horrible health hazards of them all. In Pennsylvania, the concern is primarily over Barium, Radon, Radium and Uranium.
Reservoir Contamination Threat: In times of drought, fresh water reservoirs supply our water treatment facilities, and the nearby population centers. They are ecologically sensitive places, and you don’t want to frack or process gas anywhere near them. Reservoir operators have long called for greater perimeters to protecting the water upstream, more oversight by the PA DEP and the federal EPA, and greater emphasis on emergency planning.
Setback Minimums: Currently, drilling, compression and waste treatment is permitted to occur within a few hundred feet of reservoirs and schools. Drilling occurs in state parks, and is planned for Penn State Campus Land, Pittsburgh International Airport, and state prisons.
Waste Recycling: Removal of the worst chemicals found in frack waste through advanced distillation technology and monitoring, and then either: using recycled water to frack more wells, or releasing it into the public sewage treatment plants.