In my first blog post (What the Frack) I said I’d learned a lot about fracking at an informational meeting held in Barry County, Michigan and that I would share what I’d learned with anyone interested in reading about it. Here goes…
An old habit from my days of newspaper reporting (a short lived career path) causes me to do a little research before attending any meeting so that I have at least a modicum of knowledge about the topic (or topics) likely to be discussed. This meeting was no different. I went online and quickly perused several sites with information about fracking.
At the meeting, the first speaker was a geologist working for the Michigan DEQ. He actually travels to these mine sites to ascertain if they are operating within DEQ regulations.
Fracking takes up a HUGE amount of space! That means there is a huge plot of land cleared of trees, flowers, brush, etc. to create the platform (or flat area) to set up all the equipment. A far larger plot of land than used for other drilling methods. I had to ask myself what happens to the wildlife that call that area “home”…won’t that mean more animals displaced and more deer on the road, thus more car/deer accidents?
It takes many vehicles to bring in the equipment, feed the operation and a whole fleet of tanker trucks to haul away the “fracking fluid” (millions of gallons of contaminated waste water). This means a continual flow of truck traffic on local roads. Who pays for the road repairs that will necessitate? From what I understand, if the county hasn’t bonded the roads for the extra use, then that will come out of taxpayers pockets. IF it doesn’t cause taxes to go up, and the roads aren’t repaved after the damage then we’re going to pay it in car repairs and more frequent tire replacement. We get stuck footing the bill one way or another…
For each horizontal fracturing well, they use MILLIONS of gallons of fresh water to which they add toxic chemicals. These chemicals can’t be removed from the water, and much of that contaminated water comes back out so they have to drill a “dump well” that they pump the contaminated water (aka: frack fluid) into for long term storage. This poses two problems in the future…1) what happens if the dump well ruptures? The concrete they line them with doesn’t have an “eternal” life cycle. Cement driveways, sidewalks, curbs and roads only have a 20-25 year lifespan before the cement starts to decay…
2) What happens 50-100 years down the road if these wells are accidentally tapped into with some other horizontal drilling (perhaps in a search for clean water)? We all know that records get misplaced, destroyed and lost….we can’t be certain that our grandchildren won’t somehow be exposed first-hand at that point, if not sooner…
Now I don’t know about you, but to me, the whole process spells a huge potential for leaks into the ground water supply and potentially even into the surface water. This could easily happen in only weeks or even in a few short years. People and equipment are prone to mistakes and breakdowns….
The DEQ geologist also told us that Michigan’s bed rock is always in motion toward the surface…what does that mean? Could it mean that the cement housing around these wells is under constant pressure from below? Why does every well have to start with poisoning millions of gallons of fresh water? If they are going to truck the poisoned water to a dump well anyway, why not truck it to a different well site and recycle it rather than just dump it and start over? I raised my hand several times to ask some of these questions, but was ignored. The fellow with the mic looked at me several times, but he didn’t come close enough to allow me to speak.
There are several videos online that show the horror story some of the people in Pennsylvania are dealing with since fracking came to town. I typed the word “fracking” into my search window and Google came back withe several YouTube videos…several of them were on families who can light their tap water on fire! Can you imagine the local fire department tapping into that well to put out a fire??? There was no discussion about whether that was just one well or the entire water aquifer (most wells tap into an aquifer) nor how many wells in the area were producing flammable water. I’ll keep looking to see what I can find on that. The DEQ agent didn’t try to deny those videos, he gave them credence and said that Michigan has tougher requirements that will prevent that from happening here.
The DEQ agent talked about the tremendous noise associated with the fracking endeavor, the continual truck traffic, and that once they have opened the well, they only have to cap it below plow level and plant grass seed to prevent soil erosion, they don’t have to replace the trees with seedlings. So, as for Michigan’s State Lands that are currently wooded…they will be restored to yards and no more. I need to research to see how long it will take for those areas to return to woodlands…if you already know that answer, please comment here and let us know. Thanks.
Last week, I was told by a township supervisor that drilling cannot take place ON state lands and that is why the landmen have been working on purchasing the mineral rights of private land near state land. They will have to erect the huge mining platform on the private property and then they can drill horizontally under state land.
That’s the short version of what I learned at that one meeting. It gives you a quick idea of why I find the potential so dangerous. Vermont has already passed a ban on fracking. Michigan can do the same.