- What’s in Your Water? Don’t ask the PA-DEP
- DEP FrackWatergate: Questions
- PA Department of Environmental Protection FrackWatergate
- Tap Dancing with DEP – FRACK Watergate
- FrackFocus and Fig Leaves
- FracFocus Out of Focus? Harvard Law Says YES!
Of all the issues about natural gas drilling, perhaps the one which has garnered the most media attention is water contamination and just what is in the fracking “water”. According to who in the industry you listen to, the amount of chemicals added to water and sand are between 0.5% – 0.9%. Each “frack” in the Marcellus Shale uses between 5-7 million gallons of water.
Let’s do some math.
Using the low end numbers:
5 million gallons of water X 0.5% = 25,000 gallons of chemicals per frack.
A well pad may contain multiple wells, each requiring fracking. Multiply 25,000 gallons of chemicals by the number of wells.
While multi-well pads have increased over the past five years, the overall ratio of wells-per-pad remains low. Since 2006, over 1,553 Marcellus well pads have been developed to support 3,279 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania indicating a well-to-pad average of 2.11. The data show that this ratio is increasing: in 2009 the average was 1.53 wells per pad, and in 2010 the average was 2.15.
Go ahead and do the math.
That’s a lot of chemicals.
While the amount may be mind boggling, it raises a more important question of what chemicals are being used.
THE INDUSTRY STANDARD TALKING POINTS
The natural gas industry has its set of talking points when it comes to the chemicals being used. Most often a spokesperson will say the chemicals are the same ones that are under any household’s kitchen sink.
- Tell them biocides are bleach: Hydraulic fracturing – We talk about biocides. Wow, that’s a big word. That’s bleach. So we’ve got to start talking bleach. . . So we need to kind of bring what we put in there down to where people can understand.
- Tell them polyacrylamides are ChapStick: —polyacrylamides—Ah, people get really worried when you talk about putting polyacrylamide in frack that they’re gonna pump down a well. What is that? It’s chap stick – so take your stick of chap stick when somebody talks about polyacrylamides. So we need to kind of bring what we put in there down to where people can understand.
- Tell them surfactants are Dove Soap, Surfactants? It’s Dove Soap.
In the industry produced “movie” Truthland, Terry Engleder, Geoscience Professor at Penn State University explained the fracking chemicals is just dish soap.
Calling it bleach, chapstick, dove soap or dish soap is the industry’s way of patting us on the head and saying there’s nothing to worry about.
The second talking point is to blame the existing water well as in “many homes have methane in their water from natural sources” or “the water has always been like that” or distract from the issue by stating Pennsylvania has no regulations governing the construction of water wells.
Yet, all across Pennsylvania there are thousands of people waking up in the morning to find their water has gone bad and coincidently there’s a gas well nearby.
A Gas Drilling Complaints map was published this year by FrackTracker showing the number of groundwater complaints filed with DEP. The impacts have been categorized as either pollution or diminution (loss of pressure). Of the 973 complaints represented on this dataset, the PADEP has determined causality between the oil and gas activity and the water complaint in 162 instances.
Important to note the data set only includes complaints filed with the DEP, it does not include complaints filed directly with a natural gas driller and never went to the next level of filing with the DEP.
How many have bad water and did not file a DEP complaint?
We don’t know.
WHAT THE FRACK IS IN THE WATER?
The big fracking chemical disclosure tool is FracFocus. Of the states with gas drilling happening, 11 of them require drillers to use FracFocus. As was pointed out in FracFocus Out of Focus? Harvard Law Says YES!, there are serious problems with FracFocus which include lack of oversight, lack of independent verification of information submitted, and trade secret protections.
Furthermore FracFocus’s operational costs are paid for by two Washington-based industry lobbying groups, the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance. (EnergyWire, Oct. 18, 2012)
Briefly, FracFocus is useless find out what chemicals are being used to frack. Yet the Industry stands by it, 11 states require it, and touted as the best source of information. It may be the best source of information because it’s the only source. It’s easy to be #1 when you are the only one.
Amwell Township, Washington County – Three families filed a lawsuit against Range Resources and Pennsylvania DEP claiming they were exposed to carcinogens and suffered health problems including nosebleeds, debilitating headaches and stomach ulcers because of Range Resources Corp.’s drilling operations.
Range officials have responded extensively to complaints from the families and worked with state officials to comply with environmental rules and fix any problems, spokesman Matt Pitzarella said. The plaintiffs’ lead attorney, John M. Smith, has been a central figure in several legal battles with the industry, including the challenge to the state’s new oil and gas laws, Pitzarella noted.
“They very carefully string together a series of incidents — some of them real, and some of them not — to craft a series of conclusions that in many cases have already been debunked by the state,” he said.
Officials at the Department of Environmental Protection declined to comment, saying they need time to review the allegations in the 182-page suit. At least two of the families previously tangled with the department about its investigations into their allegations and decisions not to fault Range. State officials said they fully investigated.
What followed was testimony by high ranking DEP employees which revealed:
- One employee said the DEP Bureau of Laboratories reran parts of its residential water tests for fracking pollution and, in some cases, the numbers differed substantially and could not say which number — the higher or the lower — was reported to homeowners.
- Testimony by another DEP employee revealed that the department requires no formal training for its water quality specialists and has no Marcellus shale-specific training.
- Use of “SUITE CODES” to determine what results would be reported. A specific “Suite Code” will only give back results for a handful of the things DEP tested for, not all of them. So the DEP inspector gets a report that is purposely incomplete.
FracFocus is useless, and Suite Codes are incomplete, so where do you go to find out what is in the fracking cocktail? Go to the source, the drilling company that uses it and the DEP because the driller has to file reports with DEP.
DON’T KNOW FRACK
A Motion for Contempt and for Sanctions in the Form of An Adverse Inference with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, Docket No. 2011-149-R has been filed this past week. This involves the lawsuit of Loren Kiskadden VS Department of Environmental Protection and Range Resources.
The motion is a follow up on previous motion requesting Range Resources to reveal ALL of the fracking chemicals used on the Yeager site near the Kiskadden property.
What we are learning from the current motion is Range Resources doesn’t know what chemicals are being used.
And neither does the DEP.
Yet both Range Resources and DEP BOTH ran tests on the Kiskadden water and determined gas drilling activities were not the cause.
The implications we are learning is far more reaching than just one gas driller who doesn’t know frack. How many other drillers don’t know frack? How many homes had incomplete water testing done by the DEP and/or a driller and were told the water is fine?
We’ll be looking at this more in Part Two of DON’T KNOW FRACK.
Your homework: CLICK and READ A Motion for Contempt and for Sanctions in the Form of An Adverse Inference with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, Docket No. 2011-149-R
© 2013 by Dory Hippauf