A Colossal Fracking Mess

Various technical topics related to science, energy, climate change and coal & gas.

A Colossal Fracking Mess

Postby HVPA_research » Mon Jun 28, 2010 12:24 am

Here is a recent article by no less then Vanity Fair about the effects of fracking. Things must be serious.
A Colossal Fracking Mess. This is a long and well researched review article accompanied by ordinary people are affected by drilling for un-natural gas. Comments supplied by VF readers are also worth a study. Now a few quotes to give you the flavour...

The real shock that Dimock has undergone, however, is in the aquifer that residents rely on for their fresh water. Dimock is now known as the place where, over the past two years, people’s water started turning brown and making them sick, one woman’s water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.

Craig and Julie Sautner moved to Dimock from a nearby town in March 2008. They were in the process of renovating their modest but beautifully situated home on tree-canopied Carter Road when land men from Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas, a midsize player in the energy-exploration industry, came knocking on their door to inquire about leasing the mineral rights to their three and a half acres of land. The Sautners say the land men told them that their neighbors had already signed leases and that the drilling would have no impact whatsoever on their land. (Others in Dimock claim they were told that if they refused to sign a lease, gas would be taken out from under their land anyway, since under Pennsylvania law a well drilled on a leased piece of property can capture gas from neighboring, unleased properties.) They signed the lease, for a onetime payout of $2,500 per acre—better than the $250 per acre a neighbor across the street received—plus royalties on each producing well.

Drilling operations near their property commenced in August 2008. Trees were cleared and the ground leveled to make room for a four-acre drilling site less than 1,000 feet away from their land. The Sautners could feel the earth beneath their home shake whenever the well was fracked.

Within a month, their water had turned brown. It was so corrosive that it scarred dishes in their dishwasher and stained their laundry. They complained to Cabot, which eventually installed a water-filtration system in the basement of their home. It seemed to solve the problem, but when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection came to do further tests, it found that the Sautners’ water still contained high levels of methane. More ad hoc pumps and filtration systems were installed. While the Sautners did not drink the water at this point, they continued to use it for other purposes for a full year.

“It was so bad sometimes that my daughter would be in the shower in the morning, and she’d have to get out of the shower and lay on the floor” because of the dizzying effect the chemicals in the water had on her, recalls Craig Sautner, who has worked as a cable splicer for Frontier Communications his whole life. She didn’t speak up about it for a while, because she wondered whether she was imagining the problem. But she wasn’t the only one in the family suffering. “My son had sores up and down his legs from the water,” Craig says. Craig and Julie also experienced frequent headaches and dizziness.

By October 2009, the D.E.P. had taken all the water wells in the Sautners’ neighborhood offline. It acknowledged that a major contamination of the aquifer had occurred. In addition to methane, dangerously high levels of iron and aluminum were found in the Sautners’ water.

The Sautners now rely on water delivered to them every week by Cabot. The value of their land has been decimated. Their children no longer take showers at home. They desperately want to move but cannot afford to buy a new house on top of their current mortgage.

“Our land is worthless,” says Craig. “Who is going to buy this house?”

Still, Carullo and the other activists of Damascus Citizens face an uphill battle because of the corporate and political interests stacked against them, the vast amount of money at stake, and the dynamics of our nation’s energy-policy debate. “What it is we’re doing here is trying to dismantle the whole propaganda machine that the industry is involved in,” says Carullo. “For example, ‘natural gas is the bridge to the future.’ That’s the industry’s claim. Only problem is, there’s nothing natural about this, because it’s the most unnatural thing you can imagine—hauling around tons of chemicals, taking pure water and turning it into the worst industrial waste on the planet!”

In Australia, where fracking has been sweeping the Queensland countryside and where landowners have little or no control over their mineral rights, a furor has been growing over the water contamination happening around drilling locations.

Read More http://www.vanityfair.com/business/feat ... z0s3yEO3UZ
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