Property Damage from Fracking
Fracking is a process that drilling companies use to extract gas from deep under the Earth’s crust. A mixture of water, chemicals, and sand is blasted against a layer of shale under extremely high pressure. This type of drilling can be horizontal, can go straight down, or vertical, or can be drilled at an angle to the well.
Property damage as a result of fracking and related drilling activities has become a major concern among residents in fracking areas and environmental groups trying to protect the earth and its inhabitants. Leaking well casings, fracking fluid spills, and/or shoddy practices for disposing of used fluid can pollute the groundwater and water table for an entire area. This pollution potentially affects not only those residents and their livestock and animals in the immediate area, but also large areas that tap into huge, interconnected aquifer systems. Residents who draw their water from private wells are at highest risk of exposure, but city water is often also drawn from such aquifers.
In addition to releasing toxins into the ground, air, and water, fracking is a highly “percussive”project that pounds the ground with intense pressure. It has been suspected that fracking has caused increased seismic activity in certain heavily drilled areas, although the theory is difficult to prove. Residents in Texas and Arkansas have been experiencing small earthquakes in recent years since the drilling began. There are compelling reasons to suspect fracking as the cause, but geophysicists on the case have not been able to demonstrate a definitive link between the tremors and fracking.
One effect that has been documented is the rise in methane levels in private water wells in areas connected to heavy fracking activity. For example, increased methane levels in water have created significant controversy near Dimock, Pennsylvania. In a dramatic display of resultant water contamination resulting from fracking, some residents living in and around Dimock can turn on their tap…and then set their water on fire. The methane levels in their well water are so high that it appears that the water itself burns like gasoline. Technically, the methane gas is burning as it gets released from the water that comes out of the faucet, but the water itself is not on fire. But, in any event, no one wants a flammable water supply
In addition to creating health concerns for humans, animals and plants in the rural counties where most wells are located, fracking and related drilling activities can create many other issues and concerns for nearby residents, relating to water contamination and air pollution. Often, property values plummet, putting residents’ financial future on the line. These families are at risk for financial ruin due to careless actions by the drilling corporations, which are inadequately regulated. In legislation implemented by the Bush administration in 2005, natural gas drilling was exempted from compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act. This legislation, commonly referred to as the “Halliburton Loophole,” gave oil and gas companies the right to keep the contents of their fracking mixture secret. The only exception relates to the companies’ use of diesel fuel. The bill states that if diesel fuel is used in the fracking mixture, the company must apply for a permit. No drilling companies have applied for a permit to use diesel fuels in fracking, even though millions of tons of diesel fuel have been pumped into the ground over the past decade. This information was freely volunteered by the oil and gas companies surveyed by a Democratic congressional committee charged with investigating this practice in 2010.