Frac-Sand Mining Boom Adds to Growing List of Fracking Dangers
By Andy Rowell
Barely a day now goes by without further evidence of the harm of fracking.
Last Thursday scientists reported new compelling evidence of the link between fracking and earthquakes. The scientists argue that, due to fracking, U.S. earthquakes have become approximately five times more common in recent years.
The journal Science reported that there have been more than 300 earthquakes above magnitude three on the Richter scale, which are therefore deemed significant, from 2010 to 2012. This equates to 100 a year—which is compared with a past average of 21 per year.
It appears that the huge volumes of wastewater are putting pressure on fault lines deep underground, causing the earth tremors. Inadequate monitoring of fracking’s dark downside has once again been highlighted and scientists argue that much greater seismic monitoring is needed.
But fracking is also having other ecological effects too. It has also transpired that millions of gallons of water used in fracking, which are contaminated with toxic chemicals, are currently being used for consumption by wildlife and livestock.
This is happening with the formal approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), despite this being against its own regulations.
“Under the less than watchful eye of the EPA, fracking flow-back is dumped into rivers, lakes and reservoirs,” argues Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Executive Director, Jeff Ruch. Ruch argues the EPA is ignoring its own rules, requiring that it list “the type and quantity of wastes, fluids or pollutants which are proposed to be or are being treated, stored, disposed of, injected, emitted or discharged.”
Finally an article in Dallas News explores another, relatively ignored, effect of fracking: the boom in sand mining.
We often think of fracking as mainly using chemicals and water, but the process consumes vast amounts of sand that is injected down wells, helping to fracture the rocks. In turn, this sand mining also consumes a vast amount of water, pitting the sand mining industry versus local communities too.
As the Dallas News reports: “From the northern banks of the Mississippi to the Red River, the flow of sand to drilling operations has created what geologists say amounts to a mining boom.”
The paper reports that, although the exact nature of the industry is unknown, the U.S. Geological Survey released a study earlier this year that estimated that nearly 50 million tons of sand were mined in 2011. This is a whopping increase of over 60 percent from two years earlier and still is probably an underestimate.
“I think you’d have to go back to the industrial revolution to see that sort of change,” Mark Ellis, president of the National Industrial Sand Association tells the paper. “Horizontal drilling and shale gas has completely changed the landscape.”
You cannot mine that amount of sands without meeting some resistance. In North Texas, residents near the Red River have been pressing state environmental regulators to block EOG’s Resources, a Houston oil and gas driller, from sand mining a thousand acres near the Oklahoma border.
EOG intends to use some 3,700 gallons a minute once the mine is in operation. Critics say the mine will compete with local landowners for the water and, if the mine goes ahead, it could dry up local wells.
In one of the comments below the Dallas News article, a commentator adds:
Silica turns out to be a whole new air pollution problem tied to fracking. In June of 2012, an arm of the Center for Disease Control issued a ‘Hazard Alert’ concerning exposure to Silica pollution at fracking drilling sites. This came after nationwide tests by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health at 11 of 10 well pads showed alarmingly high Silica levels in the air. This was for worker exposure. No one has done any monitoring or studies concerning off-site effect of silica pollution.
The commentator finishes by saying: this is “one more example of the little-known, and under-regulated, harmful impacts of fracking that begin adding up.”
Indeed they are adding up, day by day.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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