Wastewater From Fracking Raising Eyebrows

As fracking amongst Marcellus Shale in the northeastern part of the United States increases so does the concern over its process. Fracking is done utilizing a hydraulic fracturing process, which pumps a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and sand deep into the sedimentary formations to extract naturally occurring gas. The resultant wastewater is then stored in large impoundment ponds and closed container tanks until it can be piped to wastewater treatment plants. Once cleaned it is discharged into local streams or trucked to Ohio to be pumped deep down into another injection well or into another fracking operation.

Presently gas companies are using up to 4.3 million gallons of clean water to frack a single well in Pennsylvania. Half of that wastewater is then treated and discharged back into the local rivers and streams. With the present boom in fracking concerns are mounting citing a wide range of disposal methods with little to no good data to support the reasoning behind any of the methods.

Fracking concerns initially focused on drilling fluid and other contaminant leaks in well casings that might pollute groundwater supplies. But engineering improvements have reinforced well casings and reducing pollution at that source. The current danger is from wastewater, which because of its fluid nature, is difficult to track.

“I am more worried about wastewater management — handling, storing it, driving across the countryside with it,” said Monika Freyman, a senior manager of the water program at Ceres, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster sustainable practices in business and industry. Freyman spent months studying the effect of the industry on water resources. “It’s complicated,” she said. “There are a lot of different pathways wastewater can go.”

One Duke University study conducted last year showed Marcellus Shale wastewater, tainted by high levels of radioactivity, flowed downstream into water sources for Pittsburgh and other cities, with uncertain health consequences.

The fracking industry uses a tremendous amount of water to conduct their hydraulic fracturing. Downstream Strategies an environmental consulting firm, reported that more than 80 percent of the water used in hydraulic fracturing in West Virginia is pulled directly from rivers and streams. Ninety-two percent of that water and drilling fluids remains deep underground, “completely removed from the hydraulic cycle,” the report said.

Article by Robin Blackstone, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

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