Fracking Pollutants Found in Aquifers

Researchers from Yale have discovered diesel and gasoline-like pollutants in shallow aquifers near the sites of fracking wells. Having carried out an analysis of the types and proportions of pollutants they concluded that the source of the contaminants was the water that was pumped under ground to fracture the shale bed.

Shale gas drilling in Texas. Image courtesy of Loadmaster
Shale gas drilling in Texas. Image courtesy of Loadmaster

Published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is not thought that the pollutants seeped through the bedrock into the aquifers. Rather, they believe that it was surface spills or poor storage conditions that led to the contamination. This comes as no great surprise to me, probably because this result happens to play into my own personal bias on the topic. I’m not against fracking on any ideological basis, it’s no better or worse a way of getting hydrocarbons out of the ground than any other if it’s done properly.

My two problems with it are this. The evidence is clear that we, as a species and a planet, need to take drastic action to reduce our carbon emissions and other pollutants. This means we need to leave the vast majority of the potential fuel we know about down in the ground; just leave it be. Therefore I don’t think this is a good time to be getting all excited about a new way to get our grubby little mitts on more dirty energy. Secondly, I don’t think it’ll be done properly. I simply don’t trust the drilling companies to keep the high standards that would be required for the shale gas to be harvested as cleanly as possible, and, I have even less faith that any government will enforce a stringent and punitive enough regulatory framework to hold them to account as is necessary. So I find myself against fracking and this paper is evidence that mistakes are being made and water sources are being polluted, and that’s before we’ve even burnt the damn gas.

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