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This is from the peer review journal=

Posted by Richard640 @ 10:00 on October 5, 2014  

On the Cutting Edge – Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty

Geology and Human Health    Topical Resources

Potential Health and Environmental Effects of Hydrofracking in the Williston Basin, MontanaSource of Fracking Contamination

Due to the multitude of potential health and environmental impacts of hydrofracking source contamination can be complicated. The well location where drilling takes place is only one piece of the frack puzzle. Since each well can require up to 8 million gallons of water, and up to 40,000 gallons of chemicals, a well site may need up to 2000 tanker truck trips, per frack. A well can be fracked up to 20 times.

Storage for the waste water can take place either on site, in an injection well, or in open air ponds in the surrounding areas. Transport of the waste poses a contamination risk outside the actual well location. Air pollution also extends beyond the immediate drilling site and transportation route, since a by-product of natural gas drilling is methane gas, one of the worst greenhouse gas pollutants contributing to climate change.

Impacts of Fracking

Air Pollution

Methane is a main component of natural gas and is 25 times more potent in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. A recent study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) monitoring gas wells in Weld County, Colorado, estimated that 4 percent of the methane produced by these wells is escaping into the atmosphere. NOAA scientists found the Weld County gas wells to be equal to the carbon emissions of 1-3 million cars.

A number of other air contaminants are released through the various drilling procedures, including construction and operation of the well site, transport of the materials and equipment, and disposal of the waste. Some of the pollutants released by drilling include: benzene, toluene, xylene and ethyl benzene (BTEX), particulate matter and dust, ground level ozone, or smog, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and metals contained in diesel fuel combustion—with exposure to these pollutants known to cause short-term illness, cancer, organ damage, nervous system disorders and birth defects or even death .

The Associated press recently reported that Wyoming’s air quality near rural drilling sites is worse than Los Angeles’–with Wyoming ozone levels recorded at 124 parts per billion compared to the worst air day of the year for Los Angeles, at 114 parts per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum healthy limit is 75 parts per billion.

A 2007 report prepared for the Western Governor’s Association, that inventoried present and future nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions from oil and gas drilling in the west, projects Montana to experience a 310% increase in nitrogen oxide pollution (smog).

Crystalline silica, in the form of sand, can cause silicosis (an incurable but preventable lung disease) when inhaled by workers. Sand is a main ingredient used in the fracking process. The National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) collected air samples from 11 fracking sites around the country. All 11 sites exceeded relevant occupational health criteria for exposure to respirable crystalline silica. In 31% of the samples, silica concentrations exceeded the NIOSH exposure limit by a factor of 10, which means that even if workers were wearing proper respiratory equipment, they would not be adequately protected.

Water Pollution:

Chemical additives are used in the drilling mud, slurries and fluids required for the fracking process. Each well produces millions of gallons of toxic fluid containing not only the added chemicals, but other naturally occurring radioactive material, liquid hydrocarbons, brine water and heavy metals. Fissures created by the fracking process can also create underground pathways for gases, chemicals and radioactive material.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) have recently confirmed what residents of Pavillion, Wyoming had been claiming–that hydrofracking had contaminated their groundwater.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initially under an emergency administrative order forced three oil production companies operating on the Fort Peck Reservation, to reimburse the city of Poplar, MT for water infrastructure expenditures incurred as a result of drilling contamination. The oil companies appealed the EPA order, but were forced to rectify their violations by a federal judge.

Another scenario for contamination to occur is by faulty design or construction of the cement well casings–something that happened in the BP Gulf blowout disaster. Storage of the waste water is currently under the regulatory jurisdiction of states, many of whom have weak to nonexistent policies protecting the environment.
Soil and Oil Spill Contamination:

According to journalists at Pro Publica, oil companies reported over 1,000 oil spills in North Dakota, 2011, with many more going unreported, state officials admit. The Associated Press also recently reported that the amount of chemically tainted soil from drilling waste increased nearly 5,100 percent over the past decade, to more than 512,000 tons last year. Steve Tillotson, assistant director of the North Dakota Health Department’s waste management division, told reporters that trucks are hauling oilfield waste to facilities “24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

An ExxonMobil pipeline rupture spilled 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River, near Billings, MT. In the aftermath of the spill, ExxonMobil has disclosed that the pipeline has been transporting tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, which is a low grade, more toxic and corrosive type of oil. Regulators had not been informed that the pipeline was carrying tar sands oil and the disclosure was a result of the spill. Tar sands oil was not in the pipeline at the time of the spill, though regulators are investigating whether or not it played a role in causing the pipeline to corrode.


Earthquakes constitute another problem associated with deep-well oil and gas drilling. Scientists refer to the earthquakes caused by the injection of fracking wastewater underground as “induced seismic events.” Although most of the earthquakes are small in magnitude (the strongest measured 5.2), their relationship with the storage of millions of gallons of toxic wastewater does little to ease the fears over fossil energy’s long list of externalities.

Health Effects of Fracking:

Show caption
A 2011 article in the journal, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, examined the potential health impacts of oil and gas drilling in relation to the chemicals used during drilling, fracking, processing,and delivery of natural gas. The paper compiled a list of 632 chemicals (an incomplete list due to trade secrecy exemptions) identified from drilling operations throughout the U.S. Their research found that 75% of the chemicals could affect the skin, eyes,and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40–50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.

Health impacts from fracking are only now being examined by health experts, since such large-scale drilling is a recent phenomenon. Exposure to toxic chemicals even at low levels can cause tremendous harm to humans; the endocrine system is sensitive to chemical exposures measuring in parts-per-billions, or less. Nevertheless, many of the health risks from the toxins used during the fracking process do not express themselves immediately, and require studies looking into long-term health effects.


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Post by the Golden Rule. Oasis not responsible for content/accuracy of posts. DYODD.