"Fracking" (hydraulic fracturing) is a technology used in the US as well as in Europe to press large amounts of natural gas out of hard rock slate. Studies have shown that ground water thus becomes contaminated with various chemicals. Fracking is also suspected of being able to trigger earthquakes. The non-governmental organisation Food and Water Watch has just published a comprehensive study with the title: " Fracking. The New Global Water Crisis". Kontext TV asked the Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, Wenonah Hauter, which effects Fracking has on the water supply.
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, Washington DC
Wenonah Hauter: Fracking is a new technology that has developed since the turn of the century, the 21st century to get deep deposits of natural gas out of the ground. Four things came together to make this possible: The industry developed a way not to just go very very deep, a mile into the ground, or 2.5 to 3 km into the ground, but they now can go deep and then they can go horizontally the same distance. The go deep into the shale deposits that are very, very hard and before there was no way to drill into these deposits. They then use chemicals, chemicals that are not disclosed to the public, we know of 750 different chemicals that have been identified: benzene, toluene, lead, very carcinogenic chemicals. They're then added to large amounts of water. It takes more than a factor of 100 in the amount of water along with these chemicals and then that's sent deep into the ground using very high pressure to release the gas. This sends back to the surface a lot of wastewater, has not just the fracking fluids and the very devastating chemicals, but radiation, because there is radiation deep in the ground. This comes up to the ground, the wastewater then is often sent to municipal wastewater facilities, using public dollars to clean this waste that's been produced by the oil and gas industry and these municipal facilities aren't able to clean out the chemicals or the radiation. Companies like Veolia want a profit from cleaning this wastewater up and they're trying to get public dollars to build more wastewater facilities. Now not all wastewater comes back to the surface, some of the water ends up just deep in the earth and nobody really knows what happens to it. It is mixed with the brine all of the chemicals and other components deep in the earth and can move in ways that we just have no idea how it might affect drinking water. We do also know the methane, the natural gas also leaches into drinking water. So it's very devastating and what's happening in the US around this fracking is they say it's for a new and clean energy future but actually there's University research that shows, that because of all the methane that's produced that actually goes up into the atmosphere, it might be more devastating to climate change than conventional use of coal. You know, we usually think of natural gas as being clean burning, but because of all this fugitive gas over the life of these wells, may add to climate change problems. Fracking is being promoted all over the world and in Europe there is fracking going on, some exploratory drilling going on in Poland, in Ireland, and Poland is embracing fracking and we believe that less some initiative is taken at the European level to protect water resources, that this could be really devastating. We were told in our Brussels office, i spent a week going around and talking to MPs at the parliament about this and they're looking to the US environmental protection agencies studying fracking. Of course we're worried about what the EPA will come out with, because we know in the US there's so much industry pressure on regulatory agencies and they often don't come out with the best information. So, we hope that more people get involved in this issue, like the french, who have temporarily (?) there is a moratorium in France, and the of course outside the European Union, but close at hand Bulgaria has banned fracking. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton from the US State-Department, after the ban then travelled to Bulgaria to try to put pressure on the Bulgarians to undo the ban. So we know the natural gas industry is so powerful in the US, 370 Mn. dollars in lobbying expenses over a five year period. And then they take that political power around the world to places like Europe and really everywhere and try to force governments to embrace these concept technologies, even if they don't want to.