Article by Scientific American about Injection Wells and Water Contamination

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Fracking

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=are-fracking-wastewater-wells-poisoning-ground-beneath-our-feeth

Notable quotes in the article:

Once waste is underground, though, there are few ways to track how far it goes, how quickly or where it winds up. There is plenty of theory, but little data to prove the system works.

“The absence of episodes of pollution can mean that there are none, or that no one is looking,” said Salazar, the EPA’s former injection expert. “I would tend to believe it is the latter.”

Ultimately, the energy industry won a critical change in the federal government’s legal definition of waste: Since 1988, all material resulting from the oil and gas drilling process is considered non-hazardous, regardless of its content or toxicity.

“Geology is never what you think it is,” said Ronald Reese, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey in Florida who has studied the well failures there. “There are always surprises.”

Tom Myers, a hydrologist, drew on research showing that natural faults and fractures are more prevalent than commonly understood to create a model that predicts how chemicals might move in the Marcellus Shale, a dense layer of rock that has been called impermeable. The Marcellus Shale, which stretches from New York to Tennessee, is the focus of intense debate because of concerns that chemicals injected in drilling for natural gas will pollute water.  Myers’ new model said that chemicals could leak through natural cracks into aquifers tapped for drinking water in about 100 years, far more quickly than had been thought. In areas where there is hydraulic fracturing or drilling, Myers’ model shows, man-made faults and natural ones could intersect and chemicals could migrate to the surface in as little as “a few years, or less.”

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