PART II: Underwater Park—A Visualization of 20 Months of Frackwater in NYC
By David Manthos
Earlier this week, we posted a report on the quantity of water that has reportedly been used in the U.S. for hydraulic fracturing in the last 20 months. The staggering number, 65.9 billion gallons, was translated into the number of hours it would take for all of that water to flow over Niagara Falls (it was about 24.5 hours in case you wondered). However, with a lot of attention on New York State’s pending decision on fracking, and the drinking water supply for 9 million people in jeopardy, the staff at SkyTruth thought it would be a good idea to create a visual a little more familiar to the residents of the Big Apple.
Consider Central Park. Among the winding paths that twist through the 843-acre green-space, you find a number of lakes and ponds, the largest of which is the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (JKO) Reservoir. We thought about trying to use this lake to represent how much water has been used nation-wide, but the JKO reservoir barely holds 28.5 million gallons, and we need to represent more than 200 times that amount.
To reasonably do this, we need to change our units of measurement to something better suited to massive quantities of water. The volume of most lakes is measured in acre-feet, or the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land with one foot of water, and this will work quite well for our purposes. To make the conversion as simple as possible, this chart will give you a few examples:
At 202,238 acre-feet, all we have to do now is divide the number of acre-feet by the area of the park, and we find it covers the park in 239.9 feet of water! However, Central Park is not a smooth surface and all of the hilltops and valleys make modeling this a little challenging. I recorded more than 60 elevations from around the park and averaged them to find the base elevation of the park to work with. Then, in Google SketchUp, I added a 3D box around the entire park, raising the top to 240 feet above the mean elevation of the park—and the resulting images were even more staggering than I expected.
From the corner of 5th Avenue and W. 58th Street, the mere corner of our 3D pool of frackwater dominates the luxurious Plaza Hotel, and dwarfs the Apple Store’s futuristic glass cube on the lower right of the image. Remember, most of the water used in fracking is laced with toxic (and quite often secret) chemicals and some of this water remains deep underground after the initial frack (the percentage varies from 20-90 percent, depending on geology and the audience) or is disposed of in deep injection wells. Through high-volume slick-water hydraulic fracturing, a significant amount of water is being taken out of the hydrological cycle.
Image 2: Looking south from Harlem toward to Midtown Manhattan.
Some details and caveats to consider regarding this graphic:
- Relative to the Atlantic Ocean or one of the Great Lakes, this may seem like an insignificant amount of water. However, when you consider the relative scarcity of clean, fresh water, highlighted by this year’s record droughts, this volume is an enormous demand on our already strained water supplies.
- While some frackwater is reused, the dataset of industry reports we are working with does not consistently record this amount, so we have not been able to determine what portion of this is reused. However, our graphic is highly likely to be underreporting the actual quantity of water used, because…
- The industry reports we are working with only tell us what industry says it has used, and that only when they have filed a Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Product Component Information Disclosure. In June of this year, SkyTruth posted our findings that in Pennsylvania only 54 percent of wells had filed such a disclosure. There is a lack of complete data to work with because some states either do not require disclose, or they have not strictly enforced any such regulations.
Because of this, we can only definitively say that at least this much water was used in hydraulic fracturing between January 2011 and August 2012. Our knowledge is limited to what was reported, but while we know that some water was reused, we have not been able to tell how much (at least not yet, stay tuned to our blog, we may work this number out eventually) because of inconsistencies in reporting practices. We believe that much more activity has occurred than has been reported, making our estimate still very conservative - even with enough water to drown Central Park in 240 feet of chemical-laden brine.
Image 3: Looking east across the JKO Reservoir, from inside the 3D model.
If you have Google Earth and want take a 3D tour, download the model here. Find a compelling visual? Take a screenshot and share it on our Facebook wall, tweet it #66billion, #SkyTruth or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.
On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.
France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.
The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.
"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."
Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.
By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.
The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.
"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.
While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.
"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.
Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.
Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.
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By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.
Polyproylene fibers found in one of the sampled sharks. Kristian Parton
Spiny dogfish. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons<p>"There appear to be two routes for these particles to end up in the sharks," Parton said. "The first through their food source [such as] crustaceans. Their prey may already contain these fibers, and consequently it's passed to the shark through bioaccumulation up the food chain. The second pathway is direct ingestion from the sediment. As these sharks feed, they'll often suck up sediment into their mouths, some of this is expelled straight away, although some is swallowed, therefore fibers and particles that may have sunk down into the seabed may be directly ingested from the surrounding sediment as these sharks feed."</p><p>Some sharks only contained a few plastic particles, but others contained dozens. The larger the shark, the more plastic was in it, the findings suggested. The highest number of microplastics was found in an individual bull huss, which had 154 polypropylene fibers inside its stomach and intestines.</p><p>"It's perhaps likely this individual shark had swallowed a larger piece of fishing rope/netting and this has broken down during digestive processes within the shark, and also broken down into smaller pieces during our analysis," Parton said.</p>
Lesser-spotted dogfish caught as bycatch. Kristian Parton<p>While this study only examined the stomach and digestive tracts of demersal sharks, Parton says it's possible that plastic would be present in other parts of the sharks' bodies, such as the liver and muscle tissue. However, more research would be needed to prove this.</p><p>At the moment, there is also limited understanding of how microplastic ingestion would impact a shark's health, although microplastics are known to negatively influence feeding behavior, development, reproduction and life span of zooplankton and crustaceans.</p><p>"If we can show that these fibers contain inorganic pollutants attached to them, then that could have real consequences for these shark species at a cellular level, impacting various internal body systems," Parton said.</p>
Parton in the lab. Kristian Parton<p>This new study demonstrates how pervasive and destructive plastic pollution can be in the marine environment, according to Will McCallum, head of oceans for Greenpeace U.K.</p><p>"Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life," McCallum said in a statement. "Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities. We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic."</p>
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By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun
After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.
<div id="bb0a7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e5aefc0fff61ab1aea2f4b03c5399864"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291765757013983238" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The #oilspill is devastating but I want to honour the community mobilisation at the Mahebourg waterfront today (to… https://t.co/UWFkZFdjdi</div> — Fabiola Monty (@Fabiola Monty)<a href="https://twitter.com/LFabiolaMonty/statuses/1291765757013983238">1596815930.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"Booms are made of nylon mesh filled with #sugarcane straws all hand-stitched by Mauritian volunteers, empty plastic bottles used as buoys," described Mauritian journalist Zeenat Hansrod in a tweet. </p>
How to Tackle Oil Spills<p>The method for tackling oil spills depends on several factors, including the type and amount of oil in question, location and weather conditions.</p><p>"Once the oil comes to shore, the more intensive the cleaning technique. You can risk causing further damage," said Nicky Cariglia, an independent consultant at Marittima, who specializes in marine pollution. </p><p>"If you wanted to remove all traces of oil, the techniques available become increasingly aggressive the less oil that remains. In mangroves, you would have the added risk of causing damage by trampling," Cariglia told DW. Highly sensitive mangrove ecosystems line the Mauritius east coast that is threatened by the current spill.</p><p>Because oil normally has a lower density than water, it floats on the surface of the ocean. This means that for clean-up action to be most effective, it should happen very quickly after a spill, before the oil disperses. </p>
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