From Keith Wilson of Charlotte, in response to Rep. Ruth Samuelson’s guest column, “Fracking in North Carolina neither imminent nor inevitable” (July 27 For the Record):
As a non-scientist, but interested parent, I am concerned about the N.C. legislature passing a law that will move toward fracking after development of regulations. I was pleased to see Rep. Ruth Samuelson’s piece on moving slowly, but we need to look at all of the risks. Much of my information comes from three sources – Dr. Sandra Steingraber’s books Raising Elijah and Living Downstream, a study by the University of Texas and an episode on “60 Minutes” looking at the problems of fracking in Pennsylvania. Dr. Steingraber is a mother, cancer survivor and biologist who has testified in front of Congress.
Fracking is a technique to get at natural gas beneath the surface. In short, developers blast away at the bedrock with chemically laden water. It should be noted they need not disclose what is used in the chemicals for “proprietary reasons.” The natural gas is harvested and the developer and landowner make a lot of money. So, what is the problem?
The residual water leaks into the surrounding water table, so the chemicals poison the water for others. On the “60 Minutes” episode, the visibly polluted water could be lit on fire. In addition, methane, arsenic, mercury and other toxins leak into the air, so it is not just the water that gets polluted. The toxins settle on playgrounds, backyards and schools nearby. It also settles in trees and once some clean-up is done, the wind blows the toxins out of the trees and back into the air. So children not only breathe in the toxic air, they ingest it hand to mouth.
In Oklahoma, Arkansas and Ohio there have been significant increases in earthquakes when fracking is done nearby. A study done in Arkansas proved there is a causal relationships between the underground disposal of fracking water and earthquakes. And, the infrastructure to frack causes problems with the heavy trucks and drilling rigs negatively affecting a region.
Equally big problem: Wasting water
Yet, even if we set those aside a key argument is this: Fracking takes a huge amount of water out of the water supply which is forever wasted. Water is the new oil and we can ill-afford to have it depleted in areas where we have concerns over its future as we do in North Carolina. According to the University of Texas study, the average fracking well takes 4 to 6 million gallons of water. Where do we want to spend our dear water? Both Texas and Kansas have severe drought conditions and Kansas trucks in water from Florida to frack.
I believe the return on investment of fracking will be dwarfed by the residual water and air problems. Some will make money, but many will be left holding the bag. We are at a point with global warming that we need to move away from fossil fuels and call people out who are polluting our environment and harming our kids.
North Carolina is already a leader in solar energy and other good stories are occurring around the state. That should be where our focus lies.