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: COLLEGIATE CORNER: The faults of fracking



From: Reid Short, Class of 2015, Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA
Published March 3, 2014 11:41 AM

COLLEGIATE CORNER: The faults of fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing is a process that sends pressurized liquid down to a target depth to fracture rock and draws out liquids, such as natural gas.  This process is used to retrieve the gas from rock formations beneath the earth that were previously thought to be unsuitable for gas production (Helman) (Rao).  Fracking is now being implemented all over the world.  Many countries have turned to this method of extracting gas to lower fuel costs and balance their trade deficits, but these countries, including the United States, are allowing fracking to cause major damage to the environment.  The water pollution, and air pollution that are caused by fracking, and the law exemptions it has, are inexcusable because of the damage and danger they cause to the environment.

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The EPA has finally linked fracking and water pollution together.  The fracking process forces millions of gallons of water into the earth to fracture the rock, usually shale, and releases natural gas.  The water is filled with numerous chemicals that keep the cracks in the rock open so that the natural gas can come out.  Not all the solution can stay down under the earth, or else there would still be high amounts of pressure underground and the gas would not come out of the rock (Helman), so much of the water is pumped back out of the earth and put into waste pits or shipped off in trucks.  These waste pits are simply ditches that have been dug cheaply and sometimes not even lined with plastic or hard clay.  The contaminants are allowed to seep into the ground and wreak havoc on our water supplies as seen in the state of Wyoming.  Thirty-three abandoned waste pits leaked dangerous chemicals, such as the cancer causing benzene and 2-butoxyethanol, into the groundwater.  In 2008, the EPA found water contaminates that could be related to fracking, and another EPA water sampling confirmed that relation.  The EPA and other federal health officials then warned residents not to drink the water for their own safety.  Homeowners were also cautioned to ventilate their homes because of the levels of methane found in their water, which was enough to be lit on fire.  Hydraulic fracturing supporters have long said that geologic layers that they were drilling underneath would be a sufficient barrier to protect groundwater from fracking fluids, and the EPA reports also found that, "Those layers were not sufficient to provide a reliable barrier to contaminants moving upward" (Lustgarten and Kusnetz). 

Read more at Wakefield High School, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington, VA.

Fracking image via the Royal Society of Chemistry.

This story is part of the Collegiate Corner, a section of ENN dedicated to student work. All work in this column is the product of the student in its entirely. If you have questions about the Collegiate Corner or would like to submit please contact: rblackstone@enn.com.

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