Is Our Drinking Water in Danger?

Will Fracking pollute our Drinking Water?


We could soon be in a crisis with drinking water and it seems like few of us are paying attention. There is a relatively new technology out there which is being used to get previously unavailable natural gas from tremendously deep and inaccessible places.

Hydraulic fracking is this process. It has been used in Western Pennsylvania for a while now. Why do I know about it? Folks who live in Western Pennsylvania recently came to Baltimore to talk about their experiences with fracking. These opponents claim that the fracking process uses a chemical cocktail to break up shale formations, and that this cocktail contaminates drinking water. They also claim that the majority of this water and chemical combination stays in the ground after the process is complete.

The producers of natural gas are excited about this new process because it allows them to extract larger quantities of natural gas for a lower cost than ever before possible. Many proponents are touting this are a way to gain energy independence from foreign energy producers, and they may be right. This process undercuts the foreign production and shipping costs to such a degree that U.S. produced natural gas could possibly be exported for the first time in many years.  Those looking at the economics of this process are working diligently to make fracking a reality in many places in the U.S. But my question is: What are the environmental ramifications of this process?

In early December about 200 people attended  Drilling Down, a Conference held at the University of Baltimore. A group of presentations were made about the fracking process. I have to be honest; I went to hear the folks from Western Pennsylvania because I didn’t know much about fracking a few months ago, and I prefer to hear directly from those affected.

I listened to the panel of speakers who talked about how energy companies were very persuasive in making deals to lease mineral rights from these people who have lived on their land for a long time. I also discovered that this leasing effort has already started in Western Maryland. And although several hundred acres of land is already under lease in Maryland energy companies do not yet have a legal right to develop their fracking business in Maryland. They are working tirelessly to bring it about.

Some folks from Western Pennsylvania have been talking about the results of the fracking industry coming to their town. Some are reporting that the water coming out of their kitchen sink is flammable. They showed us video evidence of this peculiar situation. Others have reported feeling earth quakes where earth quakes haven’t happened before. Other showed that the fracking companies are bringing them drinking water because their wells have been bringing up undrinkable water since the fracking began. It appeared that the entire water table had been affected.

So, I went home that day thinking about how this might affect me in Perry Hall. Baltimore County is a long way from the mountains of Western Maryland. I did some further reading and discovered  that there is a quantity of Marcellus shale under Baltimore County. At this point in time it is out of reach of current technology. But, who’s to say that newer technology will not be able to reach the Baltimore County shale in the near future? Will we have already approved drilling here? And will it directly affect my drinking water. What about the food supply?

Gasland, a film by Josh Fox explores the various impacts of fracking in the area of northern New Jersey and southern New York.  The film brings up a lot of questions about the process. If you might be concerned about the future of your drinking water you might want to take a look at this film.

Delegate Heather Mizuer has introduced a House bill which calls for a moratorium on fracking in Maryland until studies are completed.

For more information go to Cheaspeake Climate Change Network

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Honeygo Hal February 21, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Judy, Thank you. Can you provide the title of the book, and a way to buy it? This will be high on my reading list.
JD1 February 21, 2013 at 10:05 PM
CP - love your "knowledge of basic geology" remark. Seems as though you must not have been paying attention in that class. In the piedmont region and those to the west, there is a fractured crystalline rock aquifer below and not solid bedrock as you suggest. As a matter of fact, USGS is just now starting to gain an understanding of how groundwater moves throughout the region as well as the related water quality issues.
FIFA February 21, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Where is our resident expert from the other side, aka CP? I guess like gas in the wind?
JD1 February 21, 2013 at 10:27 PM
It's interesting that many of the coal mines in Canada are simply burning off the natural gas that is released during coal extraction. It's too expensive to contain and transport to markets elsewhere.
Judy Muskauski February 21, 2013 at 10:43 PM
@ Honeygo Hal The book is "Fracking Pennsylvania" By Walter M. Brasch http://www.greeleyandstone.com/mediaroombooks/frackingpennsylvania.html
Judy Muskauski February 21, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Dr. Ingraffea Facts on Fracking http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSWmXpEkEPg Dr. Ingraffea has written an updated summary of how gas wells leak. http://www.scribd.com/doc/112348175/Gas-Well-Leaks
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:21 PM
You guys are completely ignorant of the facts. Then again most Libs are.
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:26 PM
The chemicals used in fracking are also used in these products Swimming pool cleaner Table salt Household cleaners Laundry detergent Cosmetics Soap Glass Ceramics Baked goods Ice cream Toothpaste Sauces Lemon juice Glass cleaner Antiperspirant Hair coloring
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Hal it is safe. All chemicals are contained and recycled. No chance of them reaching ground water. Unless physics and basic geology miraculously change.
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Lies Lies Lies!!!! You are misinformed. It is not possible for water to transfer through thousands of feet of bedrock.
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:37 PM
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Tell you what i will use my cheap natural gas and you hippies can put a wind mill on your Prius.
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:47 PM
http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/coal-oil-gas/top-10-myths-about-natural-gas-drilling-6386593#slide-1 Here's a real website. Not some academic trying to get a grant.
Honeygo Hal February 22, 2013 at 03:33 PM
How about you build your house on a fracking site, use well water only, and we'll get back to you in a couple years to see how you're doing?
Honeygo Hal February 22, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Okay, so this is Popular Mechanics - not a fake site, but not a definitive engineering and enviromental assessment of fracking. As with any new technology, there is promise. But the total book is not written. Fracking areas are experiencing unexplained earthquakes in areas that that have never before experienced them. Flaming tap water, while not necessarily widespread, is real. Add to that the inevitable industrial accident(s) that occur when the oil & gas companies ignore the rules (remember the Deepwater Horizon and BP - "Bringing oil to America's shores") I want fracking to be successful. The money involved will probably guarantee that the process continues. But maybe by making it safe the general public can be protected - and the oil & gas companies just make a whole lot of money instead of a sh*tload of money.
Honeygo Hal February 22, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Sorry, the chemicals are not recycled - they are injected into the ground in disposal wells - maybe you need to read up a little.
Mark Patro February 22, 2013 at 04:04 PM
CP, you have not yet affirmed the idea that there is a long distance from the surface to the shale. Possibly as much as 85% of the chemicals used in fracking remain in the ground. This "remaining in place" chemical mixture does not confine itself to "bedrock". It has to get to the bedrock. there are plenty of points along the way for the "cocktail" to seep into the soil, or the water table. The path from the surface to the bedrock MUST pass through the water table. My other observation is that any containment devices will eventually decay. You are looking at this situation through rose-colored glasses. "Lies, Lies, Lies" is not an answer to anything. If you make a statement, you need to support your point.
CP February 22, 2013 at 04:10 PM
Funny you say that. I know someone who has a drill right underneath their house in Texas. Its been there for over 10 years. No issues. They make great cash from the oil company.
CP February 22, 2013 at 04:12 PM
As with anything there is an inherent risk. An assumption of risk. I'd be very curious to see the actual failure rate of these wells. Probably the same as any other risk.
FIFA February 22, 2013 at 04:18 PM
The writer (a journalist, not a scientist) of the PM article is one Seamus McGraw who said about the Marcellus gas deposits (family farm sits in middle of the Marcellus gas reserve in Pennsylvania): "Ultimately, however, neither the state, nor the industry, nor the environmental community alone can ensure that the benefits of the vast Marcellus gas reserves in Pennsylvania can be responsibly extracted and used for the greatest benefit."
Megan February 22, 2013 at 07:06 PM
Here are a few resources that might help: http://www.networkforphl.org/network_resources/network_products/fracking_products/
Honeygo Hal February 22, 2013 at 08:14 PM
From Megan's link: “More than 75% of the chemicals could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40-50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.” So much for fracking chemicals being found under your sink...
FIFA February 22, 2013 at 08:19 PM
I'm sure the resident geologist/fracking expert will deny it. But you gotta love his anecdotal evidence. "I livd abve that darn wel fer ovr tennn yers, didn't hert me one bite. An ther gven me a chek evry mnth to."
Honeygo Hal February 22, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Yeah, I know - I've had a "drill" in my basement for over 30 years, but no oil company has ever paid me because of it. How does that work?
Mark Patro February 25, 2013 at 08:32 PM
Fracking: Maryland Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium and Right to Know Act of 2013(SB601) SB 601 is scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, February 26th. This bill would provide for a moratorium on the process of extracting natural gas known as "fracking" until scientifically creditable research can be done on the consequences for the environment and human health.
Judy Muskauski February 26, 2013 at 04:41 AM
See you in Annapolis! :-)
Laurel Peltier February 27, 2013 at 02:37 AM
Mark- I think an interesting fact is that your (and mine) municipal-supplied water is from the Baltimore City water system. When needed during drought conditions, Baltimore City uses a pipe from the Susquehanna River to supply Baltimore's water; the last time was in 2004 I believe. The Susquehanna River runs through PA's "gasfields", another reason to be concerned; coming to a faucet near you? Also, if you're interested in learning about people directly affected by fracking, check out this this youtube video about a family in West Virginia (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et9UM17C7eY). I made this 4 minute movie because pictures and a taped confessions tell 1,000 words. The movie's audience is our state's elected officials in the hopes they better regulate fracking as compared to our neighboring states. Only 40 lawsuits have been filed in the US with at least 825 fracking allegations according to List of the Harmed. The industry resolutely claims "no water has been contaminated from fracking). And it's true, there hasn't been one single case that's been heard in front of a jury -ever - because of federal legal exemptions, lop-sided leases and our legal system's high costs. Many families have been negatively affected by fracking, it's drilling and our need for more gas. But, in this day and age, do we still need to approve of citizen collateral damage? It's not 1900. Can't we build a more fair system that doen't throw people under the bus? Thanks
CP March 08, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Denied. Fracking will begin!!! Thank God.
Mark Patro March 08, 2013 at 06:31 PM
"The fact that this bill came so close to passing is a testament to the strong and growing movement of Marylanders demanding protections against the risks of fracking," said Mike Tidwell, executive director of CCAN. "The narrow loss will only energize our movement further. We'll only grow and not slow down until we can positively say that no Marylander will ever face the widespread harms linked to fracking in nearby states." Read more: http://www.wbaltv.com/news/politics/Fracking-bills-die-in-Senate-committee-withdrawn-in-House/-/9379266/19238002/-/ijy9suz/-/index.html#ixzz2MyThS0ZG
Mark Patro March 08, 2013 at 06:35 PM
this sentence should be included: "A state advisory commission is working on recommendations to allow fracking in Maryland. No drilling permits can be issued until after the commission's final report in August 2014." Read more: http://www.wbaltv.com/news/politics/Fracking-bills-die-in-Senate-committee-withdrawn-in-House/-/9379266/19238002/-/ijy9suz/-/index.html#ixzz2MyUPBo54


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