Energy Industry and Floods

Social, legal and health issues related to air and water toxic pollution in Australia.

Energy Industry and Floods

Postby HVPA_research » Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:01 am

From HVPA mailing list, post by Peta:

It was revealed today by the AP that the state of Pennsylvania is allowing "wastewater so salty, and so polluted with metals like barium and strontium" to be flushed into local waterways. This wastewater is a result of natural gas extraction method called "fracking" which has been a sore spot with the affected community.

The protests against gas fracking in the Marcellus Shale area of Pennsylvania have increased in size since the movie Gasland was released, which brought great awareness to the environmental damage caused by this method.

The AP described the process of fracking and the effect on water as follows:

Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and sand deep into the rock, shattering the shale and releasing the gas trapped inside. When the gas comes to the surface, some of the water comes back, too, along with underground brine that exists naturally.
It can be several times saltier than sea water and tainted with fracking chemicals, some of which can be carcinogenic if swallowed at high enough levels over time.

The water is also often laden with barium, which is found in underground ore deposits and can cause high blood pressure, and radium, a naturally occurring radioactive substance.

Pennsylvania reportedly allows the waste liquid that gushes from gas wells to be only partially treated for environmentally harmful substances. Then, companies like Atlas Resources and Cabot Oil & Gas are legally able to dump their spoils into the local rivers that provide drinking water to nearby communities.

link: useful to know?

Yes, American environment protection authorities are very relaxed about allowing contaminated water from industrial processes, such as non-conventional gas industry, flow into their rivers. They have a lot more rainfall in the eastern states and annual winter snow melt particularly in the Rocky Mountains. In Australia we have none of that. We have occasional floods, sometimes catastrophic like those in Queensland right now. Queensland government already announced that water from all the flooded coal mines will be "carefully" pumped into their flooding rivers. Water from the flooded CSG fracking ponds is already there and on the way to NSW, South Australia or to the Great Barrier Reef.

Coal mines in the Hunter also regularly pump their waste water into the Hunter River during the floods legally under regulations and arrangements that are far from transparent. One problem with this form of the waste disposal is that free-flowing rivers are not like city storm water drains lined with concrete. They meander and flood over enormous flood plains where the water lies in stagnant ponds for weeks. A lot contamination by salt or heavy metals could thus finish in the top layers of the rich soils of the fertile flood plains which are our bread basket.

Finally, none of the regulators seems to realise that the health of our water supplies is also dependent on the size of the polluting industries. Our rivers can, probably, cope with a relatively small energy industry for domestic purposes. Our rivers certainly cannot cope with the ambitions and uncontrolled expansion of the coal and un-conventional gas industry. I think that the nature is trying to tell us that if we export all that carbon, to be burned overseas, it will come back to us in the form of cyclones, droughts and floods. The pollution that we bring to the surface will also stay with us for generations if not for ever...
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