Environmental Problems in USA

frack water storageIn order to frack, an enormous amount of water is mixed with various toxic chemical compounds to create frack fluid. This frack fluid is further contaminated by the heavy metals and radioactive elements that exist naturally in the shale. A significant portion of the frack fluid returns to the surface, where it can spill or be dumped into rivers and streams. Underground water supplies can also be contaminated by fracking, through migration of gas and frack fluid underground.

Water Use

In order to hydraulically fracture shale and extract the hydrocarbons, large quantities of water and chemicals must be injected underground. Thus fracking can pose a threat to local water resources, especially in areas where water is already scarce like the Barnett shale in Texas. In the Marcellus Shale region, the most expansive shale play in the United States, 2 to 10 million gallons of water are needed every time a well is fractured. Because wells can be fractured multiple times, the total amount of water used for fracking is unknown and can vary by location and technology. In western states like Texas and Colorado, over 3.6 million gallons are needed per fracture. In 2010, the U.S.Water contaminated from fracking EPA estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used to fracture just 35, 000 wells in the United States, more than was used by the city of Denver, Colorado in the same time period. As of 2012, the fracking industry has drilled around 1.2 million wells, and is slated to add at least 35, 000 new wells every year. (Jeff Goodell, “The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom, ” Rolling Stone 3/12/12 )

how fracking contaminatesBecause of the cost to truck water in from further away, companies prefer to use water from sources as close to the well as possible, which can result in significant impacts on local waterways and overburden local water treatment facilities. In Texas, which is suffering dangerous drought conditions, fracking continues even as water use by citizens is restricted, the landscape wilts and the animal life dies. In 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that the diversion of water for fracking oil and gas wells is also a serious threat to ranchers and other businesses in Texas. (Russell Gold and Ana Campoy, “Oil’s Growing Thirst for Water, ” Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2011)

Storage Impacts

Because of the tremendous amount of water needed for hydraulic fracturing, fresh water must be acquired, transported, and stored for every well pad. To manage the massive amounts of water necessary for the hydraulic fracturing process, drillers build large open air pits called impoundments next to the well pads, to store the water before it is used and after it returns to the surface.

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