JOHNNIE'S BEEN NAUGHTY---AGAIN
Shame on you, Johnnie Cabot. Not too long ago you were sent to stand in the corner for a yarn about the safety of fracking fluid (FF). This time its off to the woodshed with you for telling three whoppers. We'll confront you with each.
You said, there's "almost a mile of solid rock between [the Marcellus Shale] and surface water supplies which are located at about 300 feet. There's no way any of that [FF] will 'seep up' into water supplies." Ouch!
Johnnie, the only place "a mile of solid rock" exists on this planet is in your imagination. Rock layers always have cracks and faults. Moreover, rock at great thickness is never monolithic but a composite of strata, predominantly sandstone, shale, mudstone, and limestone.
As for, "There's no way [FF] will 'seep up into water supplies," stuff and nonsense. As a matter of fact it is extraordinarily common. Subterranean waters 20 miles underground commonly breach the surface. They're called steam vents and there are tens of thousands of them in the U.S. Yellowstone National Park alone has 4,000.
Granted, we don't have steam vents in Pennsylvania, but we do have fracking that forces water under titanic pressure mile down into the Marcellus Shale. This shatters the shale, creates fissures, then widens, connects, and elongates them to form passages for gases and oil to escape.
Even after fracking operations has ceased extremely high pressures can persist for as long as six years before an equilibrium is established. During this time FF is continuously forced upwards where the weight of overburden is least.
Computer modeling suggests that this pressure and time are sufficient to transport FF into shallow aquifers in less than ten years. Alternately, FF could push brine into near-surface aquifers.
You continued (unfortunately), "Most [FF] is pumped out again . . . leaving behind a very, very small amount of chemicals . . . heavily diluted by water and sand." Shame. Shame.
Let's take a closer look at this "very, very small amount of chemicals [left underground] . . .heavily diluted by water and sand."
On average, 20 percent of FF or about 1 million gallons remains underground. This 20 percent contains 10,000 gallons of highly toxic compounds of petroleum. (Not exactly a "very, very small amount.") This noxious mixture is further contaminated with heavy metals, brine, and radioactive materials from the Marcellus.
These deeply buried polluted pools were thought to be inconsequential. It was assumed that freshwater could not be found at great depth, and that even if it were, it would be too expensive to pump to the surface. These assumptions are being rethought.
As the world's population grows, freshwater is becoming a rarer, more valuable, and sought after natural resource. Hydrologists searched for this precious commodity and found it at unexpected depths.
Europe discovered potable water reservoirs several miles beneath the surface. And Mexico is prepared to spend $40 million to pump and treat ultra-deep water for Mexico City.
In the U.S., aquifers that are drawn on for large scale irrigation have dropped more than 300 feet. Are we polluting these deep waters with FF; the very waters that may one day be crucially needed for farming?
There is another way that FF can vent onto the surface.
Pennsylvania has more than 180,000 unmapped gas wells; no one knows where they are. Some of these wells were simply abandoned, others were improperly capped, and they are all deteriorating.
If a shale well is drilled near one of these forgotten wells, it could erupt like Old Faithful spewing out FF.
But perhaps we're being unjustly severe on Johnnie. Dollars and sense keep poor company. Money tempts all of us to lie to others, even to ourselves.
We'll give Johnnie a choice: a trip to the woodshed or a 1,000-word essay titled, Why I Should Tell The Truth to be published in this newspaper. If his essay doesn't appear in the March 27 edition, that will mean that Johnnie has chosen the woodshed.
New Milford, PA