Fracking: Water Pollution and Hydraulic Fracturing

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What Water is Worth
SCI/275
March 3, 2012
Karen Marasigan

What Water is Worth
We Need Clean Water to Survive
Thomas Fuller, an English author, once wrote, “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” Humans are not the only organisms dependent on water for survival. Plants, animals, and the entire planet Earth are dependent on water. The Earth is made up mostly of water, but only three percent of that water can be considered fresh enough for human consumption. With only three percent of the Earth’s water able to be consumed, it is imperative that the cleanliness of the water be sustained by all humans. Water pollution was such a growing issue in the US that the government established the Clean Water Act in 1948, and then revised in 1977. The Clean Water Act made it illegal for anyone to “discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained” (Environmental Protection Agency, 2/12). Under the original Clean Water Act in 1948, no dumping was allowed by anyone in order to protect the cleanliness of the water. In 1977, it was amended to add that if a permit was obtained, dumping was acceptable. Because of the amendment, the Clean Water Act now only reduces the amount of pollutants going into our water system.

Water Pollution: A Growing Issue
Water pollution has become a large global issue, especially in developing countries where it is a struggle to find clean drinking water for the inhabitants of the region. There are currently seven different types of water pollution; sewage, disease causing agents, sediment pollution, inorganic plant and algal, organic compounds, radioactive substances, and thermal pollution. These seven types can be categorized into three main types; biological, chemical, and physical. This paper will discuss chemical pollution in main water systems. Chemical water pollution can be caused by pesticides, metals, solvents, or petroleum through oil spills or runoffs. One of the other major issues not usually discussed that causes chemical water pollution is hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a type of drilling method oil companies use to drill for natural gas. In the US, the largest natural gas deposit was discovered in the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from West Virginia up to New York. The Marcellus Shale is “estimated to contain more than 410 trillion cubic feet of natural gas,” (Energy from Shale.org, 2011) supplying the US with enough natural gas and energy to last a hundred years or more. This would free the United States from dependence on foreign oil and terrorism, but at what cost?

Hydraulic Fracturing
The process of hydraulic fracturing is the simplest way to collect and preserve natural gas. A pathway is created into the earth 6000 or more feet into the ground. Once the pathway enters the shale, it redirects itself at a 90 degree angle to go deep into the shale stone. Once the drill is removed, a casing of cement is put into the ground to try to protect the ground water from contamination and a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand are pressure forced into the pathway, causing mini earthquakes into the shale. Once the sand makes its way into the little cracks in the earth, it keeps the ground open so that the natural gas can escape back up through the pathway. When a well is drilled, it can continue to be drilled up to 18 times, and each time it is being fractured, it requires one to seven thousand gallons of water. 18 times per well times seven thousand gallons of water times 34 states is an exorbitant amount of water being wasted. That is only if there was one well being drilled in each state, but that is not the case. Each state being drilled today has up to 40 wells in one area! This amount of water being taken up is depleting the 3% of the consumable water supply.

Life after “Fracking”
The water being used to fracture the wells can no longer be used for human consumption, since it...
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