Letter to the Editor by Larry Harris, Morgantown Dominion Post
Hydrofracking of wells involves the use of many millions of gallons of fresh water to fracture the shale and release the gas. Some of this water stays underground and some returns, heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals added by the driller and released from the shale.
I read with interest the article on injection wells (Dominion Post – Sunday, May 19th) used for storage of spent fracking water. I had no idea that there were 65 of these wells in the state, as well as one so close to Morgantown as the one featured on Snake Hill Road (in Monongalia County).
The underground injection of fracking water, with toxic chemicals and radioactivity, is apparently the only solution for the drillers, as cleaning the water is too expensive. Underground injection, the article points out, has been challenged by “fracking watchdogs” because of the danger of contamination of water tables and causing earthquakes.
There are other concerns related to this process other than those two, namely, spills at the site or during transportation to the injection well. Pump failures might also be a problem. But the most serious issue, in my mind, is the removal of water from the water cycle.
Chesapeake claims to recycle the produced water, diluting it and using it to frack until eventually being disposed of in wells. In the end, adding up all of the wells here and in the western United States, many millions of gallons of fresh water gets removed from the surface waters and pumped down out of the system.
The article explains why the industry pumps the produced water underground, since they do not know how to clean up the water they have contaminated. What is not discussed is the large-scale removal of our fresh water from the system. This water will never return to us and the natural world is not making any new water — we have all we shall ever have.
Clean water is a commodity that all life forms on Earth cannot live without. As the planet warms some of us may find ourselves in a climate where we need less heat, and others where we need more cooling. We will never be in a place where we need less clean water.
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NOTE: Water withdrawals are becoming more important as the volume of water being permanently consumed in fracking continues to dramatically increase. The average citizen is challenged by truckers pumping from local streams without any apparent license to do so. This situation occurred this past week on Indian Creek of Middle Island Creek in Tyler County, for example, in spite of a recognized condition that stream flows were quite low.
See the following web-site presenting background information on “water for fracking” for more perspective on this situation.
Also, an article entitled “New Fracking Rules Leave Drought-Ridden States High and Dry” reports on the new guidelines from the US Department of the Interior for frack water consumption on federal lands and Indian lands, primarily but not exclusively in the Western States.