Friday, May 11, 2012

Hydraulic Fracturing, A Brute Enemy to Water


I remember driving into Pennsylvania for a weekend away some months ago and seeing signs on every lawn in the neighborhood I was driving through. Each sign read “FRACK” circled and crossed.

I had thought “FRACK” was someone running for office that no one seemed to like; my friend told me otherwise. He informed me what hydraulic fracturing was, but I didn’t believe him that these people were lighting their sinks on fire and so I had to Youtube it.

I had for the most part forgotten about what I had learned in Pennsylvania, but just recently on the way to class heard a conversation with Mark Ruffolo and an NPR corespondent; the issue they were discussing was hydraulic fracturing. I remembered what I had learned and the videos of people lighting their tap water on fire; I was immediately drawn in.

By the time the car ride was over I was convinced that this was a real threat, not some far away thing and then I realized I didn’t know a thing about it. From the light research done while in Pennsylvania I had learned that hydraulic fracturing is a process in which people drill a deep hole, push water down and then collect the gases the water forced to surface. Not having knowledge of a potentially life threatening, government-funded issue is a scary thing. Needless to say, I did a little more research.

It turns out that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is the process by which a wellbore drilling station is set where natural gas is believed to be. The wellbore drill then drills from anywhere between 3 to 8 thousand feet underground, its goal being to puncture and destroy slate underneath the Earth's surface; by destroying slate, natural gases are released and find their way to the surface via waterways. Once surfaced, this gas is housed in pressurized tanks.This method of extracting natural gas is very much derived from the same way water wells are drilled and put into operation. Fracking differs from the water well process for two major reasons.

Fracking Fluid Contains Hazardous Chemicals

The first  is that fracking requires a fluid, that in total is made up of about 500 different chemicals. Some of the top chemical compounds in this fracking fluid on the EPA’s list are Benzene, Dimethylnapthalenes, Trimethylnapthalenes, certain Fluoremes, Xylene, Ethanol, Methanol, and Aluminum sulfate; All of which are extremely hazardous to the environment. During and after the process of fracking, this fracking fluid is left behind and with it these chemicals are left as well.

The second is the natural gas itself. It is impossible to track and capture all of the natural gas that escapes from the exploded slate underneath the Earth’s surface. These gases, along with leftover fracking fluid, flow into aquifers and eventually into people's water systems.

Despite all the negative aspects that come with hydraulic fracturing, it continue to expand across the United States of America and most recently has become an issue in our region. It has been pushed on the people largely by the strong arm of the corporation and the politician who has a hand in the pocket of this business. People are blinded by the short-sighted facts that these men and women throw at them, Hydraulic fracturing is successful largely on the argument that natural gas is dramatically less harmful to the environment then coal. This, however, does not take into consideration the process of fracking.

I believe it is important not to lose sight of the fact that natural gas can be a rather advantageous source of fuel in this global energy crisis. It is hydraulic fracturing that makes natural gas an enemy to the environment, and it will continue to be an enemy of the environment until we strive further for renewable and reusable energies like solar, geothermal, and wind.

Samuel Arnowitz is a senior at Ramapo College majoring in Communication Arts.

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