New Report Reveals Dangers of Fracking in Watersheds with Reservoirs
A report commissioned by citizens opposed to hydraulic fracturing has identified grave public health and environmental risks in plans to lease public land for fracking near Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) reservoirs in Ohio. The report, written by Paul Rubin, a high-profile New York Hydrogeologist and president of HydroQuest, warns of toxic water contamination sources which will be created by fracking near and underneath the lakes.
The report was sent to the MWCD along with a demand letter that there be an immediate moratorium of indefinite length imposed upon hydraulic fracturing on any MWCD lands and underneath all MWCD reservoirs, and further, that there be a permanent policy to not sell reservoir water for fracking.
Rubin’s report focuses on Seneca Lake, Ohio’s second-largest freshwater lake, as an example of a Muskingum reservoir case study. He concludes that leasing for widespread gas and oil drilling is a “present worst-case scenario” because:
• Gas and oil wells, some drilled more than half a century ago, have weak or failing plugs of questionable integrity. The ability of aging, incomplete and absent well sealant (i.e., plug) materials to keep toxic contaminations out of freshwater aquifers, reservoirs and waterways is poor and short-lived.
• Cement sheaths, steel casing and clay plugs of known wells are failing or will fail within anywhere from a few years to decades, thereby creating new pathways for explosive methane gas and fracking poisons to flow into drinking water sources. Huge fracking pressures will blow out weak clay plugs in old wells, many beneath reservoirs. Earthquakes will further shorten the limited durability and life span of well sealant materials.
• Repeated hydraulic fracturing will result in interconnecting natural and created fractures and old, poorly plugged, gas and oil wells, allowing upward contaminant migration into drinking water supplies, including reservoirs.
• Toxic hydrofracking fluids injected deeply in the ground will move with groundwater flow systems, eventually moving upward into freshwater aquifers, reservoirs and waterways. Permitting of horizontal gas wells proximal to reservoirs will needlessly jeopardize water quality.
These are among many reasons that HydroQuest recommends an immediate moratorium on leasing for hydro-fracking in the MWCD and gas-rich shales of Ohio and for conducting health and environmental impact assessments.
Hydrogeologist Rubin states:
“Considering potential loss of potable water quality, it is difficult to conceive of any worse combination of factors than those proposed for drilling and production of horizontal wells with high pressure and high volume hydro-fracturing next to and under public water supply reservoirs … This situation is exactly what major water suppliers elsewhere have fought hard to avoid. … Health risk and assured contamination of ground and surface water supplies is the reason to ban hydraulic fracturing in the Muskingum River Watershed and beyond. The most important reason to ban hydraulic fracturing in the Muskingum River Watershed is that it poses great medical risk to the residents.”
Further, says Rubin:
“The problem with Seneca—and I suspect with other Muskingum District reservoirs—is that they pose a ‘worst-case’ scenario now, in real time, and not simply one possible bad outcome of fracking. This watershed is one of the worst situations in the United States, combining high risks to water quality while worsening already-troubling public health risks.”
“On a broad scale,” Rubin continued, “regulators in the State of Ohio may be fostering the Love Canal of today, but on a far, far grander scale. Love Canal was a major Superfund hazardous waste site near Buffalo, NY. Adverse health impacts from hydraulic fracturing, already well-documented by toxicologists and doctors in Pennsylvania, will assuredly occur in the MWCD and then increase as contaminated groundwater reaches major down-gradient aquifers. Once contaminated, groundwater cannot be remediated, even at unlimited cost.”
Lea Harper of Southeast Ohio Alliance to Save Our Water, which commissioned the study, issued this statement:
“The potential known risks of contamination of water contained in the Muskingum watershed simply cannot justify hydrofracking. Millions of gallons of poorly-defined toxic and radioactive waste are generated at each drilling site, which can endanger public health. We endorse the many recommendations made by HydroQuest. For starters, we strongly recommend that no gas well permits be given within any watershed with a reservoir, and particularly in settings with relict gas wells beneath reservoirs. We also demand that no further water sales by the Conservancy District be allowed so we don’t lose the benefit of the dilution effect for toxins already present from previous fossil fuel extraction activities in the area.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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