Hydraulic rock fracturing has gained much popularity with natural gas drilling companies over the past decade or so, because it can increase production of wells. Natural gas is abundantly found in Marcellus Shale which reaches from Virginia to mid New York state. In an effort to extract as much gas as possible, drilling companies are fracturing the shale with a large amount of water and a mixture of chemicals which they pump into the earth, a process called hydrofracking. The problem with this method, which is well documented by the EPA, is that many of the chemicals used are toxic to humans and the environment. Drilling requires upwards of 12,000 gallons of chemicals mixed with over a million gallons of water to be pumped into the ground, much of which will stay there and possibly seep into the ground water supply. Some of used chemical mixture is re-collected and sent to treatment plants, but it is documented that some of the plants are not capable of removing toxins before discharging the water into a river. This is becoming a big problem in areas such as Pennsylvania, where the number of wells has just about doubled since 2000, from 36,000 to 71,000. The New York Times produced an informative interactive map of water contamination in Pennsylvania due to hydrofracking. Many of the chemicals used in this process have significant health effects upon people who come in contact with them, which should be a big concern because of many wells (at least 116) have produced waste water containing levels of radioactive material over a hundred times the levels set by federal drinking-water standards.
Scott Jablonski, VERTICES Intern