Read the U.S. EPA report defining the scope of regulation exemptions for natural gas waste fluids. The report states that the exemptions also transfer to third-party carriers who transport the waste. Click here to dowload the 2002 EPA report (pdf).
The Potential Amount of Fracking Waste that Fracking for Natural Gas Produces in Pennsylvania
There are currently 8,848 either active wells or well permits for drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania, according to the Powdermill Nature Reserve, the research center of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pennsylvania. Of that number, 6,391 are drilled and active.
A typical natural gas well takes between 2 to 5 million gallons of fluid to frack. Of that, 10 to 50 percent of the toxic fluid returns to the surface. The returning fluid not only contains the toxic chemicals that were in the fracking fluid — but when it returns to the surface it contains radioactive materials and salts that it picked up from deep inside the earth. The waste fluid sometimes also contains arsenic from deep inside the earth.
Think how much toxic fluid that is — and where is it going to go? Let's do the math. Let's be conservative and take 6,000 active fracked wells in Pennsylvania and multiply it by 3 million gallons of fluid with toxic chemicals in it. That's 18 billion gallons of toxic fluid. Of that, let's take 30% that comes back to the surface — that is 5.4 billion gallons of toxic fluid — and now that fluid contains radioactive materials and salts. Where will all that fluid go?
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Pennsylvania reports that the Marcellus shale deposits contain natural radioactivity from the elements uranium and thorium, and their radioactive decay products, notably radium-226. Researchers warn, "In theory, Marcellus shale development can release radioactivity into the environment in three ways.
First, rock cuttings from drilling may be improperly disposed. Second, wastewater may be improperly treated and discharged into streams and rivers. Third, wastewater may be intentionally released into the environment — such as by spreading it on roads as deicing material. In each case, radioactivity can potentially harm plants and animals in natural ecosystems." The radioactivity found in much of the fracking waste consists of radium-226, which has a half-life of 1,600 years.
According to a minority staff report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, more than 650 commonly used fracking products contain chemicals that are "known or possible human carcinogens, regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, or listed as hazardous air pollutants." At present, federal laws do not protect the health of either the environment or people.
Where are the billions of gallons of toxic fracking fluids going to go?
In 2005, the "Halliburton Loophole" pushed by the Bush administration and Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Legislation also exempts fracking, used in 90 percent of U.S. natural gas wells, from the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.
ProPublica investigations found fracking to be the common thread in more than 1,000 cases of water contamination across seven states. Reported problems included well failures in which the concrete or steel meant to protect aquifers cracked under high pressure. ProPublica reports that chemicals and waste from the Marcellus shale are likely seeping into Pennsylvania drinking water.
Hazardous Chemicals Associated with Fracking
Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, and Ethylbenzene (BTEX compounds)