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Fracking Facts and How it can Contaminate your Water

The drilling practice of “fracking” has sparked controversy all over the country, and has been accused of contaminating our groundwater supply, but what is it, and what effects can it really have on your water?

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the practice of drilling and then pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand, and various chemical s into the ground in order to break up shale rock, free natural gas, and bring it up to the surface for use in our homes, businesses, and generators. In fact, over the last decade, natural gas has created an energy boom that has reduced imports, gained landowners and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars, and now constitutes about 25% of all our energy consumption as a nation. What then could be the downside?

The truth is that some of the water and chemicals used in the drilling process return to the surface and can bring with it, heavy metals, high levels of salt, and low-level naturally occurring radiation. Also, a percentage of the chemicals and wastewater are left in the ground, and some fear that they are seeping into our groundwater.

Much more common a problem from fracking, however, is methane migration, or methane catching a ride with the natural gas up to the surface, where it contaminates the water. Now, this does happen naturally over time,  but fracking dramatically speeds up the process.

Methane, although not considered “dangerous” for consumption, is flammable, can be explosive, and if not vented properly can displace oxygen and cause asphyxiation. It also disrupts water pumps and filters, and very few studies have been done on any long term health effects of ingesting methane. These characteristics have frightened people and resulted in viral Youtube videos of people lighting their faucets on fire, contaminated wells, and a lot of blame and anger directed at gas companies across the country.

Much of the information available contradicts back and forth between official departments and affected and angry citizens, resulting in a lot of confusion, but here are some of the facts:

  • First, natural gas is known to be cheaper, has greater price stability, and half the atmospheric emissions of coal and oil.
  • The EPA and U.S. Dept. of Energy and Ground Water Protection Council have both declared that fracking does not negatively affect groundwater.
  • Water contamination issues resulting from fracking are relatively rare, but still, complaints have been issued from fracking sites all over the country, and there are hundreds of confirmed cases of well contamination from gas and oil drilling every year
  • According to many tests – and one particular published study conducted by Duke University – methane concentrations has been found to be as much as six times higher around a fracking site. Methane was also detected in one instance, in over 80% of the wells within a kilometer of a major fracking site.
  • The most common type of well water contamination is from methane, which will NOT be removed by water systems or filters. It can however be fixed by aerating your water, meaning that in most cases, the well contamination is not permanent. 
  • Many people and organizations are pushing for greater regulation and enforcement, to make sure that drillers surround their gas wells with proper steel and cement casing, which ideally prevents all methane contamination.

These problems, although not technically toxic, remind us once again how much we depend on this vital resource and how important it really is that we not only care for our planet’s water, but also prepare for any emergency that might come up. If your water supply was contaminated for any reason, would your family have the means to cook meals, wash, do laundry, or have anything safe to drink? If emergency struck, would your family be at the mercy of aid organizations? With a little foresight and preparation, you can easily have several weeks, or even months of water storage available in your home, and that is something worth thinking about.

By Zane Cope

Zane Cope has real passion for problem solving, even problems as large helping each and every household prepared for disasters. Currently, Zane is the owner and President of WaterPrepared, LLC, the number one residential large-capacity water storage tank. He highly values emergency preparedness and self-reliance and has a mission to help families and individuals become water prepared. Zane resides in Utah with his wife and son.

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