Sunday, February 27, 2011

Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

Source: NYTimes.com

Environmentalists say using natural gas will help slow climate change because it burns more cleanly than coal and oil. But the relatively new drilling method —known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking —carries significant environmental risks. It involves injecting huge amounts of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas.

With hydrofracking, a well can produce over a million gallons of wastewater that is often laced with highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene and radioactive elements like radium, all of which can occur naturally thousands of feet underground. Other carcinogenic materials can be added to the wastewater by the chemicals used in the hydrofracking itself.

While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

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In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

This is a Suspiciois News Brief. Read more at NYTimes.com.
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