The many disgusting ways fracking wastewater is disposed of by fossil fuel companies in California
Why exactly is hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” such an environmentally disruptive method to drill for fossil fuels ? To begin with, in order to break the rock formations the gas or the oil is trapped in, fracking companies inject a high-pressure fluid composed of water, sand but also a disgusting cocktail of chemicals such as benzene, diesel, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, methanol, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toulene and xylene. This is already a great environmental hazard because these chemicals affect the area they are injected in and have been found to pollute water tables and cause severe illnesses to populations and cattle. But the injection of the fluid isn't the only issue. The other problem is the byproduct of fracking, the huge amounts of wastewater, full of chemicals, that fracking companies have to dispose of. And of course, big frackers like ExxonMobil, Chevron or Shell are far from disposing of the wastewater in as safe, eco-friendly way. The case of the fracking wells in the state of California is a sad example of how irresponsibly oil companies can act when it comes to handling this issue. These companies have been using several equally disgusting methods : dumping the wastewater into the ocean, burying it underground, or... selling it to farmers to water crops.
The massive dumping of toxic wastewater into the ocean[edit | edit source]
The first way fracking companies like ExxonMobil or Shell get rid of their wastewater is too dump it into the ocean, and that method is used mostly on offshore fracking rigs. This has spurred the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmentalist non profit, to action. According to Miyoko Sakahita, the fossil fuel companies are trying to hide their deed : . "You can see the rigs from shore, but the contaminated waters are hidden from view.” However, he is positive, frackers dump about 9 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the ocean every year ! The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the EPA in 2014 to bring an end to this horrific pollution before the consequences get too ugly : “Our goal is to make sure toxic fracking chemicals don't poison wildlife or end up in the food chain,” says Sakahita. This petition led to a suspension of fracking permits in January 2016 and to an assessment by the Department of Interior of the environmental impacts of offshore fracking. Furthermore, on March 22 2016, 30 prominent scientists signed a joint letter to call the Obama administration to maintain the moratorium on offshore fracking because of the terrible pollution it caused to the environment. However, the fracking companies pulled out the big guns and poured millions into lobbying this issue. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the main lobbying group in California, claimed at the end of the second quarter of 2016 that it had spent $3 million during the first half of 2016 and $14 million since the beginning of 2015. Money spent on securing support for the expansion of offshore fracking in California. And sure enough, in May of 2016, the Obama administration allowed the resumption of the fracking, despite the warnings of the scientific community, despite the terrible impacts of the fracking and the dumping of wastewater on the environment.
The fracking wastewater is sold to farmers to water crops ![edit | edit source]
Another gruesome way frackers are getting rid of the wastewater is to … sell it ! Indeed, bewildering as it may seem, the Department of Agriculture allows oil and gas companies to sell the byproduct of fracking to farmers after a cursory treatment that only marginally improves that quality of the water. And of course, the farmers of California were thrilled to find a new supply of water. Indeed, the Central Valley produces about 40 % of American vegetables and fruit but is suffering a major drought that has led to a reduction of the water available for irrigation. So this wastewater seemed like a great solution for Californian farmers ! However, given the chemical composition of the wastewater, this practice could actually lead to a sanitary crisis ! The Environmental Working Group, an environmentalist non-profit, just released a report indicating that fracking companies of California use in their fracking fluid 16 chemicals recognized by the state as carcinogens or reproductive toxicants. And Chevron's very cursory water treatment is far from thoroughly cleaning the water it's selling to farmers. Independent testing has concluded that the wastewater used for irrigation still contained dangerous chemicals such as acetone, crude oil or methylene chloride. These products end up inside the produce that is sold to consumers in California and countrywide... and there's no way to tell if the produce has been contaminated because of the utter lack of transparency in this matter. So, to get this straight, oil and gas companies like Chevron, that are responsible for global warming and climate change, which has enhanced extreme climate phenomena like the drought in California... then proceed to make even more profit by selling toxic laden water to the farmers that desperately need it because of the drought Chevron and its buddies caused in the first place ! That level of cynicism and cupidity is sickening.
Fracking wastewater is injected in underground wells and... aquifers ![edit | edit source]
Last but not least disgusting, fracking companies are also burying the byproduct fluid of fracking underground or even in underground water reservoirs, aquifers, causing two kinds of equally dangerous hazards for Californians. The reinjection of the wastewater in underground wells, even if located far from drinking water sources is incredibly dangerous. Because California is already a very earthquake prone area and scientists have established a strong correlation between wastewater reinjection and seismic activities. For instance, the state of Oklahoma, which used to have a non existent seismic activity, is now the area which experiences the most earthquakes in the world because of wastewater reinjection. So is it really a good idea to conduct this kind of earthquake inducing wastewater disposal in an area that is already threatened by a huge seismic hazard ? In February 2016, a study concluded that the reinjection of wastewater in the area of Bakersfield had already enhanced seismic activity, must Californians experience an artificially triggered “Big One” before frackers are stopped ? Equally life threatening although less dramatically so, the shale gas and oil companies have also dumped their waste water in aquifers... the source of an important part of the drinking water of Californians ! In 2014, the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmentalist group, disclosed documents that revealed that almost 3 billion gallons of fracking wastewater had been poured into the aquifers of Central California that supply water for irrigation and for households ! The documents also show that the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board found abnormal levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates in the nine reinjection wells that were used to dispose of the wastewater. So why did fracking companies get away with this ? As usual, thanks to a heavy lobbying of tens of millions of dollars. Between 2009 and 2014, the oil industry spent over $63 million to sway Californian policy makers, $27 million of which came from the WSPA. This has spurred two environmental groups, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity to file suit against the California Department of Conservation to compel it to stop allowing fracking companies to pour their wastewater into the aquifers. Patrick Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Center for Biological Diversity explains why his organization is suing : “We don’t know how many people are getting drinking water from these aquifers, put potentially there could be millions of people drinking this water”. This pollution of California's clean aquifers is all the more evil that the Golden State is literally withering from the historical five-year drought. Again, the very same fossil fuel companies responsible for contributing to carbon emissions, climate change, and thus the drought, are the ones that are polluting what little water resources Californians have ! And the state authorities are allowing it because how the massive lobbying money WSPA and the other fossil fuel lobbies are throwing their way.
The responsibility of fracking companies is paramount. Not only do they earn money and make profit from an energy that is causing massive air pollution and that altering the climate, but they are also causing earth and water pollution by the various disgusting ways they use to dispose of the wastewater generated by fracking. This is definitive proof that fracking can’t just be regulated, it needs to be banned. Because fossil fuel companies never play fair, never take into account the lives of simple folk or the environment. Fossil fuel companies will stop at nothing to generate income and they must be stopped before they cause irreparable damage.