After years of searching and millions of dollars spent on studies showing no effects, the USGS has finally found an case of surface water contaminated by fracking fluid: Scientists say chemicals from fracking wastewater can taint fresh water nearby (I assume you know the Google trick for accessing pay walled newspaper articles).
But a study by the U.S. Geological Survey appears to have answered a critical question about the millions of gallons of chemical-laced water that are injected into the wells to fracture rocks and release trapped gas. Is there any cause for concern when that water is stored later, whether in treatment facilities or special underground wells?But, not very much:
The short answer is yes, said the study’s lead author, Denise Akob, a USGS microbiologist.
Upstream from the storage tanks, the waters of Wolf Creek tested normal. Downstream, there were detectable levels of chemicals that commonly lace fracking waste — barium, bromide, calcium, chloride, sodium, lithium, strontium. The report called the levels low, not enough to have a noticeable impact on marine life. But they did appear to have an effect on something that could be equally important.Woohoo! Detectable levels of stuff that's routinely found in detectable levels in freshwater everywhere (Trust me, I know, I used to do this for a living). Salt ! (sodium chloride), And, please note, this is not a case of fracking fluid leaking out of a well, and contaminating an aquifer; this is a case where some sort of accident or leak occurred in a storage facility. Regrettable, but altogether preventable. And the effect on something "important":
Communities of microbes that help support life were dramatically altered downstream. There was a lower diversity of the life forms downstream, “which could impact nutrient cycling,” a building block of life in the creek, the USGS explained in a statement that announced the study.Different and fewer varieties of bacteria! Nutrient cycling! We're all gonna die!
“Water samples adjacent to and downstream from the disposal facility exhibited evidence of endocrine disruption activity compared to upstream samples,” the USGS explained. Long story short, endocrine disruptors can wreak havoc on the hormones of mammals. In the Chesapeake Bay watershed that includes bays, rivers, streams and creeks in six states and the District of Columbia, scientists have determined that endocrine disruptors have switched the testes of male smallmouth bass to ovaries.Hmm, inorganics like barium, bromide, calcium, chloride, sodium, lithium, and strontium aren't usually suspected of being endocrine distruptors; those are usually organic chemicals. And there's some sign that their maybe another source of pollution involved.
At the West Virginia site, Akob and her researchers did not know where leaks might have occurred. They also found elevated levels of iron considered unsafe by West Virginia regulators, but that problem couldn’t be blamed on the wastewater because various mine excavations in the state have raised iron levels in many locations.Hmm, could the endocrine disruptors be coming from the same source as the iron? Something to investigate.
But I'm sure this study will be widely touted as the definitive proof that fracking is dangerous to surface water.