A remarkable trend of indifference and habitual destruction is leaking into the minds, and drinking water, of a select group of Pennsylvania landowners who are susceptible to the promises of industry.
Hydraulic Fracturing is a method of harvesting, or increasing the production of natural gas in well systems by opening small fissures with a cocktail of chemicals, water, and sand. The hope is that the sand left behind will act as a proppant to the existing cracks and effectively leave behind increased gas flow from within these separations.
Pennsylvania is the unfortunate bearer of a specific type of natural rock perfect for the development of Hydrofracking. Marcellus Shale, as it is named, forms a ribbon that cuts through most of northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as western sections, and accounts for 64 percent of the state. The business of fracking accounts for a 30 billion dollar industry, according to pacwest, and is growing at a continual steadfast rate.
Communities contained within the area have experienced small economic “booms” that are perfect for transforming any small community into industrial centers with enormous amounts of unskilled labor jobs. According to the Institute of Public Policy and Economic Development of Wilkes University, and their study for Socio-economics in Marcellus Shale Communities 41 percent of people reported improvement in the availability of jobs, as well as a 56.4 percent individual belief that extraction should be encouraged to decrease reliance on imports.
The details of the study correspond with universal concerns about the reality of United States domestic troubles and economic instability. A predictable and ingrained pattern of primarily rural communities accepting the arrival of new business with little acumen and apprehension fits with the perception that patriotism means international independence and industrial focus on native soil, and justifiably so. However the cost of local economic security may jeopardize the health of Pennsylvania habitat, including those citizens that accompany it.
Fracking is developing into an environmental parasite that may slowly, but surely, mature into a unique deadly mix of toxicity and political agenda. Flow water, or well runoff consisting of the aftermath chemicals used to break the shale, has been found in local ponds and lakes around gas wells where companies have struggled to regulate efficient methods in dispensing of the waste. Not to mention a litany of occurrences in which the gas, and in some cases the runoff, have penetrated water tables used by families on well water.
Studies conducted by the Duke University and California State Polytechnic University at Panoma have shown “evidence of methane contamination of shallow drinking water systems in at least 3 areas of the region and suggest important environmental risks accompanying shale gas exploration worldwide.” Some cases have been so severe that families within these regions have been able to light their faucet water on fire.
According to NPR’s Christopher Joyce, a study in 2008 concluded that with the introduction of “5000 new wells into Pennsylvania over 700 violations of state law related to water have occurred, with fines amounting to about 1.5 million dollars.”
It is an unfortunate reality that -- even with all the evidence supporting a halt to drilling -- major progressive consideration about the adverse side effects of Fracking has ceased. Chris Tucker, a spokesman for gas industry trade group Energy in Depth says, “What's controversial is attempting to argue that these migrations occur as a result of industry activities, and on a time scale that actually matters to humanity.”
The argument and final solution may boil down to what we deem as more important communally: public health or local economics?
Getting Worse Vs. Getting Better
47% natural environment 4%
40% drinking water 3%
30% roads and streets 10%
27% overall cost of living 5%
60.3 % believe negative aspects can be prevented
*The leftover percentages were neutral or unsure
*Wilkes University Marcellus Shale Study