Contributing Writer for Wake Up World
“It was so bad sometimes that my daughter would be in the shower in the morning, and she’d have to get out of the shower and lay on the floor” due to the chemicals in the water, remembers Craig Sautner. “My son had sores up and down his legs from the water.” Craig and Julie also experienced frequent headaches and dizziness.
The Saunter family lives in Dimock, a Pennsylvanian city in the U.S. now famous for it’s fracking activity — a technique used by the oil industry to facilitate the flow of petroleum or natural gas by injecting large amounts of toxic liquids deep into the earth.
In March 2008, the Saunter’s were approached by land men from Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas about leasing the mineral rights to their 3.5 acres of land. They were told neighbors had already signed off on the leases and that their property wouldn’t be impacted whatsoever by the drilling. The Saunter’s signed and received a single payout of $2,500 per acre plus royalties on each producing well. In August 2008 the fracking began.
The ground was cleared of trees and vegetation to create the four-acre drilling platform that was less than 1,000 feet from their land. Every time the well was fracked, the Sautners could feel the earth beneath their home shake.
But this was the least of their problems.
In under a month, their water turned brown, which stained laundry and scarred dishes. After complaining to Cabot, the company installed a waste filtration system in their home. It seemed to help, although when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) tested further, the water was found to still contain exceptionally high levels of methane. More filtration systems were installed and the Saunters continued to use the water for another year, except for drinking.
By October 2009, however, the DEP closed down all the water wells in the Sautners’ neighborhood due to major contamination of the aquifer. The water was found not only to have methane, but also dangerously high levels of aluminum and iron.
The Sautners now need water to be delivered every week by Cabot. The family would like to move, but cannot afford another mortgage.
“Our land is worthless,” says Craig. “Who is going to buy this house?”
Regrettably, the Saunter’s story is not an isolated case.
Earthquakes, Foul Water and Poor Health
Across the U.S. and around the world, there is an abundance of stories about fracking gone horribly wrong. One of the most graphic instances concerns water igniting straight out of the faucet due to high methane levels. One woman had a well explode for the same reason, while another needed to evacuate her house because of hazardous levels of the gas.
Birth defects, miscarriages and still born babies have been linked to fracking in a small Utah town. Oklahoma, which rarely experienced earthquakes in the past, is now considered a major earthquake zone due to fracking wells. Many times, rich formations of natural gas are found near key watersheds — like in New York State, where the Delaware River basin watershed sits atop the Marcellus Shale. The Delaware used to be one of the cleanest, free-flowing rivers in the United States. Now, thanks to fracking, it’s the most endangered river in the country.
More than 15 million people rely on the river for water.
For those living close to fracking wells, tales of poor health of both animals and people are commonplace. One Colorado woman became so seriously ill she collapsed, unconscious. The following morning, she had severe diarrhea and uncontrollable vomiting. Next came a burning rash followed by lesions. As it turns out, a gas tank half a mile from her property had overflowed. Her symptoms became worse when she went outdoors. She moved to Texas and her health improved over the next several years. That is, until Exxon began fracking wells 14 miles away and she became sick again after a few months.
Another rancher in West Virginia had fracking waste disposed of on her land. Shortly thereafter, small white flecks began appearing in her water. The family became sick with gastrointestinal disorders and lost many baby goats.
Physicians in Colorado Springs are seeing a dramatic uptick in cases involving chronic dizziness, headaches and neurological problems after drilling began near their homes. Some patients have developed spontaneous bleeding, pituitary gland tumors and a rare neurological speech impediment, which is associated with noxious fumes from drilling.
With all the hazards surrounding the practice of fracking, we may wonder how the technique was ever approved for use in the first place. Journalist Christopher Bateman gives us the rundown in “The dirty truth behind the new natural gas”:
“Developed by oil-field-services provider Halliburton, which first implemented the technology commercially in 1949 (and which was famously run by Dick Cheney before he became vice president of the United States), hydraulic fracturing has been used in conventional oil and gas wells for decades to increase production when a well starts to run dry. But its use in unconventional types of drilling, from coal-bed methane to shale gas, is relatively new. … Although fracking was never regulated by the federal government when it was a less prevalently used technique, it was granted explicit exemptions—despite dissent within the E.P.A.—from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the wide-ranging energy bill crafted by Dick Cheney in closed-door meetings with oil-and-gas executives. While the average citizen can receive harsh punishment under federal law for dumping a car battery into a pond, gas companies, thanks to what has become known as the Halliburton Loophole, are allowed to pump millions of gallons of fluid containing toxic chemicals into the ground, right next to our aquifers, without even having to identify them.”
Bateman also explains the process of fracking:
“When a well is fracked, a small earthquake is produced by the pressurized injection of fluids, fracturing the rock around the well. The gas trapped inside is released and makes its way to the surface along with about half of the “fracking fluid,” plus dirt and rock that are occasionally radioactive. From there, the gas is piped to nearby compressor stations that purify it and prepare it to be piped (and sometimes transported in liquefied form) to power plants, manufacturers, and domestic consumers. Volatile organic compounds (carbon-based gaseous substances with a variety of detrimental health effects) and other dangerous chemicals are burned off directly into the air during this on-site compression process. Meanwhile, the returned fracking fluid, now called wastewater, is either trucked off or stored in large, open-air, tarp-lined pits on site, where it is allowed to evaporate. The other portion of the fluid remains deep underground—no one really knows what happens to it.”
Fracking requires between 2-15 million gallons of water per well, depending on rock formation and if fluid is recycled. Up to 40,000 gallons of chemicals are used per well and up to 2,000 tanker truck trips per frack. A well can be fracked up to 20 times.
The risk not only lies with active drilling, but also other accidents associated with the industry. In Dimock, a truck turned over and spilled 800-gallons of diesel fuel. And upwards of 8,000 gallons of toxic fracking fluid leaked from faulty pipes, some of which ended up in neighboring wetlands and a stream, which killed aquatic wildlife. In Colorado, 206 chemical fluid spills from fracking wells, and 48 cases of water contamination, were documented in 2008 alone. Another example is when toxic liquid seeped into water supplies that were in the vicinity of 800 oil and gas drilling sites in New Mexico.
As more accidents and stories of ill-health come to light, concerned citizens are banding together and mobilizing to protect their families and communities. Keep in mind that a fracking well doesn’t need to be in your backyard for it to effect your water and food supply, and ultimately, your health. Fracking impacts everyone. This is why it’s crucial to learn more about the dangers — and to take action. Below are a few good places to start.
Unearthed: The Fracking Facade
A video exposing a flawed claim often abused in the sales pitch for promoting shale gas development across the world:
“With a history of 60 years, after nearly a million wells drilled, there are no documented cases that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has lead to the contamination of groundwater.”
Brought to you by the team behind the upcoming South African feature documentary, Unearthed, that is investigating natural gas development and the controversial method of extraction known as fracking from a global perspective.
Gasland Part II
Gasland Part II documents how the stakes have been raised on all sides in one of the most devastating environmental issues rapidly spreading the globe. This sequel further enriches the argument that the gas industry’s portrayal of natural gas as a clean and safe alternative to oil is a lie, where in fact fracked wells inevitably leak over time, and vent exuberantly more potent greenhouse gasses such as methane in cumulative effect. Meanwhile, a continued string of cases of severe water contamination are arising across the United States and even as far away as Australia.
Dryden – The Small Town That Changed the Fracking Game
Watch the true story of a town who discovered strength in unity and turned the tables on the powerful oil & gas industry. Share this inspiring video with everyone you know!
Dangers of Fracking presents an interactive display that clearly describes the process of fracking, how it harms our health and the environment and actions to take to ban the practice.
Earthjustice uses the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health; to preserve magnificent places and wildlife; to advance clean energy; and to combat climate change.
Americans Against Fracking is a national coalition to ban fracking. In the past year, the organization has stopped plans to open the Delaware River Basin to fracking, prevented fracking from coming to New York, passed legislation to ban fracking and fracking waste imports in New Jersey, achieved a long term moratorium in Vermont, and passed over 200 local measures to prevent fracking or to support statewide bans from California to Ohio, Colorado to North Carolina and elsewhere.
Previous articles by Carolanne Wright:
- The DARK Act: Monsanto’s Dream Come True, A Waking Nightmare for Clean Food and the Environment
- Big Pharma and Organized Crime — They are More Similar Than You May Think
- Glyphosate Nation: Troublesome Roundup Herbicide Found Throughout U.S. Food Supply – Organics Too
- Is Roundup Driving The Autism Epidemic? Leading MIT Researcher Says YES
- Over 100 Scientific Studies Agree: Cannabis Annihilates Cancer
- Emotional Energetic Healing: The Future of Medicine is Here
- Why Every Parent Should Consider Unschooling
- The Greenhouse of the Future: Grow Your Own Food Year-Round With This Revolutionary System
- First U.S. City Produces More Electricity Than It Uses — With 100% Renewable Technology
- Autistic Boy with Higher IQ Than Einstein Discovers Gift After Removal from State-Run Therapy
- Enhance Spiritual, Mental and Physical Well-being with a Pineal Gland Detox
- DIY $2 Self-Watering Garden Bed – Grow Produce Easily, Even in the Toughest Conditions
- How Being Too Clean Can Lead to Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease and More