Slickwater, horizontal hydrofracking ("fracking") is a relatively new drilling technology that allows natural gas to be extracted from shale formations thousands of feet below the earth's surface. The process involves drilling deep wells, turning the drill sideways and drilling horizontally for miles, then forcing water mixed with a cocktail of toxic chemicals down the well under high pressure to break apart rock formations and allow bubbles of trapped gas to escape back up the well, where it can be processed, stored, transported and eventually sold.
Among the many issues surrounding this extreme form of energy exploration, none is more important than the safety and health of the public. Numerous studies have found that the fracking process contaminates air, water and soil near fracking sites, harms wildlife and impacts agriculture, and that the radioactive material brought to the surface by fracking will contaminate the surrounding environment for many generations.
Water contamination: The chemical mixtures used in the drilling process, while secret, are known to contain chemicals linked to cancer and endocrine disruption, among other health problems. Through migration, spills, illegal dumping or vehicular accidents, these chemicals can enter the environment and permanently contaminate ground water supplies. Methane can leak from the well casings or through nearby abandoned wells, polluting ground water.
Air pollution: The drilling process produces harmful air contaminants including diesel exhaust from generators, pumps, compressors and thousands of truck trips required to transport water and materials to and from the site. Diesel exhaust is a known human carcinogen. Other air pollutants include silica dust from the sand used in the fracking mixtures, toxic chemicals burned in flaring operations, components of ozone and methane (a potent greenhouse gas) escaping from wells, pipes and compressor stations.
Food contamination: Chemicals and radiation from fracking can find their way into air and water through multiple pathways and eventually enter the food chain. Agricultural enterprises, including the organic farming, dairy and livestock industries, are threatened with contamination and irreversible economic failure.
Water depletion: The fracking process requires millions of gallons of fresh water for each well. Once contaminated with chemicals and radioactivity, the only way to meet EPA discharge standards is to add many millions of gallons of additional water.
Industrialization of rural areas: Fracking operations create noise pollution, light pollution and increased traffic in residential and rural communities, causing health problems and stress for residents.
Watch our video with faith leaders talking about fracking in New York.