Despite Industry Claims, Methane from Frack Wells Contaminates PA Water Supplies
According to a detailed report on NPR yesterday by Scott Detrow, several families in Pennsylvania are finding that methane has gotten into their drinking water supply. Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection is saying that this is happening due to a nearby Chesapeake Energy fracking operation. Water is leaking out of the frack wells and into the families' water wells, resulting in "black as coal" liquid bubbling up out of their water supplies and flammable gas puddles all over their properties.
The gas drilling industry of course has long maintained that fracking has never been conclusively linked to water supply contamination. Technically this is true, in that it's never been conclusively documented that when the fracking chemicals are shot deep into the ground to break up the shale rock they and the gas then seep back up into the water supply. However, the problem is much more simple. The pipes that are used to transport the gas from the well often have leaks which allow methane gas to escape.
According to NPR: "A shoddy cement job is usually what's to blame. Gas wells are lined by a series of steel pipes surrounded by cement. And if the cement pour is rushed or poorly done, methane is going to get out of the well and into the ground."
In 2009, Chesapeake Energy was fined $900,000 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for contaminating 16 families' water supplies in the same northeast Pennsylvania county where the contaminated water is being found now. This was the largest environmental penalty in Pennsylvania history.
Supposedly since then Pennsylvania regulators have enacted tougher standards requiring higher quality cement and pipes. However, as the NPR story points out, "it only takes one small hole, or one faulty piece of equipment, or one weak chunk of cement, to create problems on the surface."
The danger to the families whose drinking water supplies have been ruined by fracking goes beyond just that. In a letter to both families detailing test results and preliminary findings, state regulators wrote that "there is a physical danger of fire or explosion due to the migration of natural gas water wells."
Chesapeake's response is that they've installed ventilation systems at the familes' wells, but the letter warns that "it is not possible to completely eliminate the hazards of having natural gas in your water supply by simply venting your well."
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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