Many people know the issues with fracking when it comes to water and air pollution, but animals are also at risk. Two studies in the last two years, show how farm animals and aquatic life are impacted by fracking.
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A study by two Cornell University researchers indicates the process of hydraulic fracturing deep shale to release natural gas may be linked to shortened lifespan and reduced or mutated reproduction in cattle—and maybe humans.
Without knowing exactly what chemicals are being used, and in what quantities, it is difficult to perform laboratory-style experiments on, say lab rats. But farm animals are captive, surrounded by electric and barbed wire fences.
And when fracking wastewater is spilled across their pasture and into their drinking water, and they start dying and birthing dead calves, one can become suspicious that there is a connection.
Which is what the Cornell researchers found during a year-long study of farm animals, based primarily on interviews with animal owners and veterinarians in six states: Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
“Animals can nevertheless serve as sentinels for human health impacts,” the report, Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health, notes. “Animals, particularly livestock, remain in a confined area and, in some cases, are continually exposed to an environmental threat.”
The report has been produced by Robert E. Oswald, a biochemist and Professor of Molecular Medicine at Cornell University, and Michelle Bamberger, a veterinarian with a master’s degree in pharmacology.
In one case, an accidental release of fracking fluids into a pasture adjacent to a drilling operation resulted in 17 cows dead within an hour. Exposure to fracking fluids running onto pastures or into streams or wells also reportedly led to pregnant cows producing stillborn calves, goats exhibiting reproductive problems and other farm animals displaying similar problems. Farmers reported effects within one to three days of animals consuming errant fracking wastewater.
“Of the seven cattle farms studied in the most detail, 50 percent of the herd, on average, was affected by death and failure of survivors to breed,” the researchers noted.
Other examples seem to confirm animal health problems after exposure to fracking wastewater. Animals exposed to it have the problems; animals separated from it—most of them, anyway, do not.
The report points out a major difference between company and non-company observers. Area residents and conservation groups look at the existing evidence and try to err on the side of “let’s be careful, here.”
According to Natural Resources Defense Council's Amy Mall, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a peer-reviewed journal article that discusses the results of the investigation into a 2007 fracking wastewater spill in Kentucky. Fracking wastewater that was being stored in open air pits overflowed into Kentucky's Acorn Fork Creek and left an orange-red substance, contaminating the creek with hydrochloric acid, dissolved minerals and metals, and other contaminants.
Prior to this pollution, the creek was so clean that it was designated an Outstanding State Resource Water. The Creek provides excellent habitat for the Blackside dace, a small colorful minnow protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it is a threatened species.
State and federal scientists found that the toxic fracking waste "killed virtually all aquatic wildlife in a significant portion of the fork." The dead and distressed fish had developed gill lesions and suffered liver and spleen damage.
The lead USGS scientist in the investigation stated: "Our study is a precautionary tale of how entire populations could be put at risk even with small-scale fluid spills."
One of the things that bothers Mall the most about this case is that the scientists had been alerted to the fish kill "by a local resident." All spills are supposed to be reported—by the oil and gas company—to the National Response Center.
You know how companies have been telling the public for years that frack fluid is mostly water and safe ingredients that are found in your home? Many people have been saying for years that, even diluted, the frack fluid ingredients can be very harmful to health, and this case is just additional evidence. Thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for enforcing the law and levying the largest fine ever for a violation of the ESA in Kentucky. While the fine was only $50,000, it is larger than many other fines paid by the oil and gas industry. Regulators should be imposing the highest penalties allowed under the law to start to create an incentive for the oil and gas industry to stop violating regulations.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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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