HARTFORD — As the dirty drilling technique known as “fracking” approaches Connecticut’s borders, a new Environment Connecticut Research and Policy Center report finds that, in 2012 alone, fracking operations generated enough wastewater to flood Hartford in a toxic lagoon more than 77 feet deep.
The report, entitled “Fracking by the Numbers,” gives new urgency to mounting calls for a ban on fracking waste in Connecticut. It is the first study of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking damage to date, including toxic wastewater, water use, chemical use, air pollution, land damage, and global warming emissions.
“The numbers don't lie: fracking has already taken a real toll on our communities and environment,” said Madeline Page, Federal Field Associate with Environment Connecticut. “With the drilling industry pushing to frack in New York, Connecticut could become the next dumping ground for toxic waste unless our leaders act now.”
While most industrial uses of water return it to the water cycle for further use, fracking converts clean water into toxic wastewater, much of which must then be permanently disposed of, taking billions of gallons out of the water supply annually.
Often laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive material, toxic fracking waste has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. The report shows that Pennsylvania produced 1.2 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012 and more than 2.5 billion gallons since the fracking boom began.
“As a nurse and environmental health advocate, I am deeply concerned about the potential for Connecticut to become a repository for toxic fracking waste water. Waste water from fracking is highly contaminated and can never be reused. It must be stored in open pits or in receiving wells that are drilled into the ground. In both cases, the potential for serious impacts to human health and the health of our environment are high."
“When people find out that fracking waste can be highly radioactive, and that it will stay radioactive for thousands of years, it changes the whole equation,” says Patti Wood, Executive Director of Grassroots Environmental Education, a non-profit organization that has been working with scientists to identify the threat of radiation in fracking waste. “It’s the one issue the industry doesn't want to talk about, the one they can't solve, and the one that will cause all future generations to wonder what we were thinking when we said ‘Yes’ to fracking.”
Key findings from the report include:
Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012.
Operators have hauled more than two billion gallons of chemicals to thousands of fracking sites around the country.
Global warming emissions from completion of fracking wells since 2005 total an estimated 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
“The bottom line is this: the numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said Page, “For public health and our environment, we need to put a stop to fracking.”
“There is no room for fracked gas in Connecticut’s long term energy plan, especially since CT DEEP has not weighed the cumulative environmental, public health, and economic impacts of fracking from Connecticut to New Mexico,” said Lou Burch, program coordinator for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “From wasting huge amounts of fresh water to spewing greenhouse gasses and disposing of toxic and radioactive waste, the entire life cycle of dirty drilling poses an unacceptable risk to our land, air, water, and people.”
At the federal level, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, along with Connecticut co-sponsor Rep. John Larson, introduced the CLEANER Act (H.R. 2825), a bill to close the loophole exempting oil and gas waste from the nation’s hazardous waste law.
“Here in Connecticut, we can stop the fracking waste frenzy before it ever starts,” concluded Page. “But for places where fracking is already generating billions of gallons of toxic fracking waste and making people sick, it’s time for Washington to step in. Our leaders should close the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law.”