Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster
Walter M. Brasch
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: Greeley & Stone, Publishers, LLC
On this Halloween, let me point you to a horror story. No, it’s not about vampires, zombies, ghosties and ghoulies and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night. This is about a real horror called fracking—hydraulic fracturing for gas and oil.
Walter Brasch lays out all the health and environmental horrors of this process in his book, Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster.
If Brasch had written a novel or Hollywood produced a film, based on what is in his latest book, the critics would scream, “Implausible!” But what Brasch has documented is real and it is destroying the environment, people’s livelihood, their health and even costing them their lives.
Fracking Pennsylvania goes beyond the horrors happening in that commonwealth and it’s not just flirting with disaster, it is a disaster.
Billions of gallons of precious potable water are mixed with sand and a witches’ brew of chemicals that are injected at extreme pressure into wellheads to fracture the underlying shale, forcing the sand into the fissures to keep them open in order to release the gas and oil trapped in the rock. The proponents of this process—the energy companies and the politicians they have bought—contend that this is a safe process that will make the United States energy independent.
It’s so safe that it’s causing earthquakes in areas that never experienced them. It’s so safe that when an improperly sealed well casing leaks, groundwater is polluted, methane and radiation are released in the ensuing chemical cloud and the wastewater that spews out destroys the land for grazing or agricultural use. It’s so safe that explosions occur when there methane ignites, killing workers, blowing up homes and, as has happened, along with their occupants.
“On Jan. 17, 2001, gas collected in an underground injection well near Hutchinson, Kansas, ignited, destroyed two buildings, damaged 25 others, killed two residents, and forced hundreds to evacuate.” [P. 186]
For the most part, few environmental regulations apply—not clean air, not clean water, not noise abatement.
The highly toxic wastewater that isn’t recycled or injected into questionable deep underground wells is supposed to be stored in closed tanks or above ground pits with impervious liners—never mind that the latter allows the volatiles to escape into the atmosphere.
“The salinity of [the] wastewater makes it an ideal deicer.” [P. 183] It also has been “used to reduce dust on dirt roads.” Pennsylvania has given “Integrated Water Technologies a 10-year general permit to spread chemical salts from the Marcellus Shale wastewater on all public roads and fields in the state.” Such use means all the toxic elements—ammonia, arsenic, diesel hydrocarbon, lead, mercury and volatile organic compounds will be washed into nearby streams, creeks and rivers, plus poison the wildlife “temped to lick the salt-laden water.” [P.184]
Add into this the wastewater spills from traffic accidents that wind up in waterways, not to mention illegal dumping directly into waterways.
I am just scratching the surface of the well-documented information and personal horror stories Brasch has managed to pack into his must-read, well-written and chilling 274-page-turner. You would be well advised to read it because the frackers may soon be coming your way if they aren’t already there.
Fracking and nuclear power plants are two of the most destructive things, aside from wars, Homo sapiens have come up with. The question is if the radiation spewing from the Fukushima disaster isn’t stemmed and if we continue on the same path, which one, nuclear or fracking, will wipe out all living things on Planet Earth?