The Top 5 Biggest (Potential) Dangers of Fracking

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America is in the midst of what many are calling a second oil boom. This time, it’s actually an oil and natural gas boom. But just like the initial wild enthusiasm and near total lack of potential risk-assessment that the 19th century “black gold” rush brought to the country, today’s craze for hydraulic fracturing promises both riches and, quite likely, terrible hardship and suffering. Fracking, as the process is known, consists basically of drilling wells many thousands of feet deep into deposits of porous rock (usually shale) and then causing the rock to fracture by forcing water, sand and chemicals into it through the well. Now, what could possibly go wrong as a result of that!?

5 Radioactive Material

Last, but not least, fracking can expose individuals to unhealthy levels of radioactive material. You thought only nuclear energy could lead to radiation issues? Nope! Hydraulic fracturing can, too! In many wells, scientists have found that the water flowing back up the drilled shafts (after they’ve been pumped full of sand and chemicals) is rich in radium. That’s bad, because radium can lead to a whole host of medical issues, including cancer.

4 Oil Spills

If you hate oil spills, you will probably not be a huge fan of fracking. Talk to the residents of Mayflower, AK, and they’ll tell you that oil spills resulting from pipeline ruptures totally suck. That’s because a pipeline carrying Canadian crude oil recently burst, leading to a devastating spill in their town. As most sites rich in the oil deposits made accessible by fracking are well inland, pipelines are the best way to transport it to refineries, so more fracking will mean more pipelines, which means more potential spills.

3 Contaminated Water

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And if it’s not enough that your drinking water is contaminated by fracking, how about whole rivers, streams and lakes? The hydraulic fracturing process leads to enormous amounts of waste water filled with chemicals. This poisonous stew is usually kept in huge open-air vats, which is bad enough on its own. Any heavy rains, and that disgusting slurry will wash away toward the nearest watershed, just waiting to poison miles and miles of waterway.

2 Flammable Tap Water

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Fracking can also lead to the lovely phenomenon of flammable tap water. Everyone loves drinking water, and everyone loves fire, but we actually think that the two are best left separated. In multiple instances, investigative teams have found a direct link between the seepage from methane gas and various chemicals used in fracking to tap water that can literally catch on fire. The 2010 documentary “Gasland” is largely about this awful byproduct of our new energy craze.

1 Earthquakes

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Well, for one thing, hydraulic fracturing can cause earthquakes. Who would have thought that boring down up to two miles under the earth’s crust and then forcing deeply buried rock to crack open could make the finely tuned tectonics of the planet a bit jumpy? Lots of geologists, that’s who. Fracking has caused earthquakes (or “induced seismicity”) in several states already.

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