New evidence suggests that the controversial process of “fracking” produces radioactive groundwater. A University at Buffalo study found that uranium located near natural gas deposits is released into the groundwater through the process, prompting significant safety concerns.
Read more about the study here.
Dr. Tracy Bank, the study’s lead researcher, wondered if so much water under so much pressure would mix nearby naturally-occurring uranium into the groundwater. “We found that the uranium and the hydrocarbons are in the same physical space,” she said in a university press release. She found that “they are not just physically — but also chemically — bound.
“That led me to believe that uranium in solution could be more of an issue because the process of drilling to extract the hydrocarbons could start mobilizing the metals as well, forcing them into the soluble phase and causing them to move around,” she concluded. In essence, Dr. Bank’s hypothesis was correct – fracking mixes localized minerals into the water, including radioactive uranium.
“Fracking” is industry slang for a specialized form of Natural Gas drilling, short for “high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracking” – a process in which high volumes of water, sand, and industrial chemicals are pumped deep into the Earth to fracture rock and release gas for collection.
Recent reports have cited the process as posing significant generalized environmental dangers from the use of mixed chemicals, and thousands of EPA documents obtained by the New York Times correlate the process with increased general water and air toxicity. Adding radioactive groundwater to other negative side effects only adds to the list of negative side effects from the process.
Read the NYT article and read through the EPA documents here.
Despite reassurances from the drilling industry that any environmental dangers are too small to pose a significant risk, the U.S. Congress has declared the issue significant enough to warrant further study, and the EPA was commissioned to evaluate fracking and all associated dangers. The EPA’s proposed study is being reviewed by their advisory board March 7-8, 2011. Initial study results will be available in 2012 and a finalized report will be issued in 2014.
Read about this upcoming study on the EPA’s website here.
If you are interested in learning more about fracking, come to WMEAC’s sponsored showing of Gasland, an Oscar-nominated documentary. Showing will be the evening of March 23, 2011, at the Grand Rapids Celebration Cinema. Visit www.gaslandthemovie.com