Fracking poses an unacceptable threat to our public health. High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing operations are extreme industrial processes that are highly dangerous and polluting throughout every step of their operations. While many industrial operations of all types have some risks associated with them, fracking operations are unique far more dangerous in a number ways. Unlike most industrial plants, which tend to be set aside from people’s homes, fracking operations intersperse in the midst of our homes, communities, farms, and other businesses.
From the onset of construction to operation, each phase and component of the entire process of fracking and drilling threatens our health. Going backward chronologically, fracking and drilling rely on the use of tens of thousands of gallons of toxic and hazardous chemicals including many known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Those chemicals are stored near our homes, our sources of food, and near our waterways. The fracking and drilling operations blast them at extremely high pressure underground, including through the groundwater we rely on for our drinking water, protected only by thin pipes and concrete casings. The gas industry’s own data, as well as independent research, shows that those casings fail both immediately upon fracking and more so over time.
A great deal of those chemicals, mixed with water and sand as part of the fracking process, stays in the ground. As casings fail over time, as well as through natural migration of chemicals and gases underground, risk of groundwater contamination fails. Additionally, a majority of the toxic cocktail comes up and must be stored and transported away for disposal in some unknown manner. The risk of spills, leaks, and accidents poses a major threat to our groundwater and surface water alike. In addition to the hundreds of chemicals that the gas industry uses, the toxic cocktail that comes back to the surface is even worse than what the gas industry sends down. There is significant radioactive materials in the shale that the gas industry fracks, including radium, radon, and uranium. Studies show that the levels of radiation are thousands of times higher than the federal limit, and hundreds of times more radioactive than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for industrial discharges.
Studies and recent scientific data indicate that the health impacts of air pollution from fracking operations is a major concern. (See here, here, here, here, and here for some examples). Contaminants include ground-level ozone, benzene, and other pollutants that have made the air in extremely rural areas with a lot of fracking worse than downtown Los Angeles in the matter of a few years.
According to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, each fracking operation requires almost 7,000 industrial truck trips. In our rural communities, that is an enormous number of truck trips. The air pollution alone from those truck trips is cause for significant concern. The threat of accidents, spills, etc, is also great, as well as the community impacts from such an increase, as well as increased rates of asthma and lung diseases, and the increased levels of noise and disturbance.
Fracking operations require a great deal of sand, which is generally silica sand. The health impacts associated with silica sand can be significant. Silica sand is a long-known cause of debilitating and deadly diseases such as silicosis and lung cancer. We must not allow our homes and communities to be covered in silica dust.
Areas with fracking have seen increased rates (more here) of crime and negative community impacts. Women have felt threatened. Our families and children deserve better. We look over the border at Pennsylvania and the disaster that fracking has been there, and the hundreds of harmed.
The uncertainties are many when it comes to fracking. The number of unanswered serious concerns are many. There is a great need for more science to be done and more data to be collected. For example, fracking has recently been linked to earthquakes and seismic activity, both from fracking itself and from the disposal of wastewater. Take for instance this MIT study, as well as major concerns raised by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.
Our opposition to fracking stems from the negative health and community impacts. We have carefully considered the science and the wisdom of medical and scientific professionals. This page serves as a brief introduction to some of our major concerns. Among the resources we have considered and point to are the following, and the wealth of resources within them:
Concerned Health Professionals of New York
Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy