The following is an abstract of a recent document that I was sent. Even if it isn’t entirely correct, it still paints a fairly grim picture. The amount of water that is consumed – much of it becoming highly toxic, is frightening!
The Impact of Fracking on Farming. By Sonya Oldham, June 20, 2014. Amended by Huw Rowlands, Sunday 20th June 2014.
Consider the experiences of farmers in the USA who have been living with fracking, and also the findings of the 2011 EU study on the ‘Impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction on the environment and on human health’.
*Lowers crop and pasture yields (1).
*Major possible impacts are air emissions of pollutants.
Groundwater contamination due to uncontrolled gas or fluid flows due to blowouts or spills, leaking fracking fluid, and uncontrolled waste water discharge. (5)
*Wastewater from fracking can contain radioactivity levels over 1000x the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommended standard for drinking water. When wastewater is released into our streams and rivers without adequate radiation treatment, highly radioactive elements like uranium and radium, which had previously been safely trapped thousands of feet below the surface, can then enter the food chain and bio accumulate in humans, plants, and animals just as heavy metals do. (4)
*Each gas well drilled for hydro-fracking requires the use of millions of gallons of water. This water is taken from nearby lakes, streams, and rivers and is then loaded with tens of thousands of pounds (lbs) of toxic chemicals and sand. Unlike the water used in farming, which remains a part of the water cycle, water used for fracking fluid becomes largely irrecoverable and the risk of pumping aquifers, rivers, lakes, and streams dry is serious. Between 60 and 80% of the water used in fracking remains underground where it can potentially leak into and contaminate underground aquifers. The remaining 20-40% of the water returns to the surface, where it can poison nearby water sources if it is not dealt with properly.(4) An average of 5 million gallons of fracking water is used to drill each gas well in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. (6)
Endangers Humans and Livestock
*Livestock drink surface water – ponds, steams. Frequent small and large spills flow onto pasture and into these waterways. (1) 40% of the chemicals added to create fracking fluid are known endocrine disruptors, chemicals that interfere with the body’s natural signalling system. These chemicals can cause problems such as male and female infertility in livestock and humans. A falling reproductive rate for livestock can have serious consequences on the sustainability of food production and of the viability of livestock farms. (4)
*Surface water contaminated by improperly handled fracking fluids has killed many animals nationwide (USA). Even a small spill of the highly toxic mixture can have large impacts on the surrounding livestock and wildlife. Unfortunately, animals are attracted to the saltiness of the fracking fluids, leading them to imbibe lethal quantities of the fluids and die.(4)
*Pasture and soils are contaminated with heavy metals, radioactivity and hydrocarbons. These substances thus become part of the food chain. (1) Fracking releases toxic heavy metals like arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury into soils. Growing plants absorb these metals, which then enter the food chain. Humans and animals that eat these plants are exposed to these heavy metals, which accumulate in body tissues and cause serious damage. Mercury, for example, is a highly potent neurotoxin. Eating food grown in soils contaminated with heavy metals poses a serious health risk. (3)
*Increased soil acidity around oil and gas pipelines reduces the available essential nutrients for plants, making it more difficult for health fruits and vegetables grow. Methane leaking from gas pipelines reduces the ability of plants to fix nitrogen, create cellulose, and maintain proper hydration. Fracking itself releases toxic heavy metals into the soil (arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury) and these are absorbed by plants, ultimately exposing animals and humans to them. (2)
*Soil acidity increases in the vicinity of oil and gas pipelines where flaring occurs, reducing the amount of usable essential nutrients in the soil such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous. The reduction of these nutrients makes it much more difficult for plants to grow and produce healthy vegetables and fruits. (4)
*When methane, the primary component of natural gas, leaks from gas pipelines it changes the oxygen and bacterial content of the soil. This reduces a plant’s ability to fix nitrogen (the process by which nitrogen, an essential nutrient, is made available for biological purposes), create cellulose (the essential component for plant growth), and also limits a plant’s ability to maintain proper hydration. (4)
*The detrimental combination of soil acidification and de-oxygenation disrupts plant cell growth, which makes it difficult to grow even the hardiest crops. (4)
*Groundwater contamination by methane, in extreme cases leading to explosion of residential buildings, and potassium chloride leading to salination of drinking water, is reported in the vicinity of gas wells. (5)
Endangers Food Safety
*Then there are questions of certification and regulation of food. Will food grown near fracking operations undergo additional testing? What about organic certifications for farms near fracking wells? (2) Would Red Tractor, Organic, Freedom Food and LEAF Marque certification still be applicable?
*All of these toxic components introduced into the soils make their way up the food chain as plants absorb toxins, primary consuming animals eat the plants, and secondary and tertiary consumer animals eat those animals and drink their milk. The toxins build up within these animals at a rate that is faster than their livers can process, resulting in accumulation in their tissues. The toxins are then passed on to whatever animal eats that contaminated organism. Humans are at the top of this chain. If we consume meat from animals that have been exposed to grasses and feed contaminated with fracking fluid, we risk unhealthy exposure to the fracking fluid chemicals. (4)
*Fracking fluids contain hazardous substances, and flow-back contains heavy metals and radioactive materials from the deposit. (5). Examples from the US:
Louisiana: 18 cattle deaths in 2010 from fluid spill; Chesapeake Co. fined (1).
Western Pennsylvania: 80 dead cattle after surface spill into pond and stream (1.)
Western Pennsylvania: 18 stillborn calves on one farm with congenital cataracts (1).
Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture quarantined 28 cattle belonging to Don and Carol Johnson, who farm about 175 miles southwest of Jaffe. The animals had come into wastewater that leaked from a nearby well that showed concentrations of chlorine, barium, magnesium, potassium, and radioactive strontium. In Louisiana, 16 cows that drank fluid from a fracked well began bellowing, foaming and bleeding at the mouth, then dropped dead. Homeowners near fracked sites complain about a host of frightening consequences, from poisoned wells to sickened pets and debilitating illnesses (3).
*When access roads cut across farms or well pads are constructed within existing farm fields, productive farmland is fragmented. In addition to taking away parcels of usable farmland, fragmented farmland requires much more work to cultivate than contiguous farmland. This can mean that farmers either have to exert more effort to receive a pre-well site wage, or accept lower profits with the risk going out of business. As farms go out of business, local businesses that function to support farms also disappear, which makes it harder for the remaining farmers to continue. The effects of fracking are not limited to only those farmers who choose to lease their land to fracking companies. (4)
*Richard Moorman CEO of Tamboran Resources, a company involved in fracking in Ireland, said, “We expect to drill hundreds of wells over 15 years.” He also said that they expect to build pads with 6-12 wells on each pad with pads situated at least 2 – 4 kms away from each other. (7)
*As the law stands, fracking companies are prevented from fracking beneath property without the consent of the owner. The government intends to change the law in the next session of parliament so that the consent of the owner is not required. You, your farm, livestock, livelihood and farm land are under threat. (15).
*Dart Energy’s licences in the Welsh Marches cover over 250 square miles from Chester and Ellesmere Port through to Wrexham and Oswestry. In the East Midlands they have a licence of over 500 square miles in a swath from Doncaster through Worksop and Gainsborough to Lincoln, as well as areas running north from Scunthorpe to York. (16). The quantities of gas which Dart claims that it might be able to get out of these licence areas would require thousands of wells to be drilled. If all this gas could be extracted it would require 3,400 CBM and 3,100 Shale wells in Cheshire and 2,400 CBM and 4,800 Shale wells in the East Midlands. Thousands of miles of pipelines, compressor stations, gas processing plants and waste disposal facilities would also be needed. (16).
1. Fracking and Farming: http://www.google.ie/url?
5. 2011 EU study on the ‘Impacts of shale gas and shale oil extraction on the environment and on human health’.
6. Marcellus Shale, Citizens’ Guide, Prepared by the National Sea Grant Law
Center & Pennsylvania Sea Grant water management plans. http://nsglc.olemiss.edu/Advisory/marcellus_citizens_guide.pdf
10. Rural Land Registry Maps 2012.