Worth the Risk?

March 25, 2011
Water, a necessity many of us take for granted. Even though the earth is about 70% water, only 3% of it is fresh water and only 10% of that is drinkable, as the rest is salt water or frozen in ice. In fact, 97% of all of our fresh water resource is found underground, exactly where a form of energy, known as natural gas, has been unearthed.

Hydraulic fracturing, called frack jobs by workers of hydrofracking by the media, is the process used to help free natural gas. After drilling the well, fracking fluid is forced through the ground. This increases the pressure until the shale cracks, creating space for the gas to flow through. A proppant, commonly sand, is also in the fluid. The sand keeps the cracks open so the gas can flow into the well at an economical rate. Accompanying the sand are 596 dangerous chemical, none of which have to be disclosed to the public, due to an exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

As you can imagine, such an exemption would prove to be detrimental to the people and regions in which hydrofracking is practiced. These chemicals can be hazardous to people’s health if they are exposed to them. Sometimes a well will leak, and the fracking fluid will seep into the family’s water source. If this water is drunk, it could sicken the whole family and poison the surrounding ground water. In a few homes, their water is so polluted that it can be lit on fire! Ground water contamination is very expensive and time consuming to mitigate, but in such a case is necessary. However, the gas and oil companies do not have to clean up the water or help the family affected by it, unless proven negligent after a long and costly judicial process. When the companies do have to fix it, they often choose the least expensive option, which is not always the best solution for the family. Also it is up to the victims to pay the initial court cost, an expense many families cannot afford. Sadly, if a person wants to avoid all of these risks by not leasing, if 60% of the people in their county lease, the companies can drill on their land without their consent, forcing the dangers of hydrofracking on them. Not only does natural gas drilling negatively affect people, but also the environment. The backflow, or the leftover fracking fluid, is dumped into big open air pits, which are subject to leaking. This toxic waste is a huge concern, since 19,000,000 gallons of it are produced each day. Also, the process lets off chemical emissions which pollute the air, and harm nearby residents. Some people living near these drilling rigs describe it as a gray cloud enshrouding their homes. Unfortunately, several of the chemical contaminants are invisible to the naked eye and can only be seen under infrared, so many people may not know what they are breathing in.

Despite all of the above, some people still support gas drilling, often due to individual financial situations. Although several states are going through uncertain financial times, natural gas drilling is only a temporary fix and in ten to twenty years, any revenue or jobs created by this industry will be gone. However, if we focus on clean energies such as solar, wind, or hydroelectric, these would all be long lasting solutions. Some people may say this is too expensive an option, but since these trucks will probably be driving on back roads that are not meant to bear the weight of trucks and other vehicles used by gas companies, money would have to be spent on road repairs, money that could be used in much better ways.

Often times people take things for granted until they don’t have them anymore. In order for us to avoid such a catastrophe, we must act to save our precious resources. Even though people may say that the chance of a leak is too low to worry about, just one mistake is all it takes to alter our way of life. Is it worth it?

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