“Ukrainian media disseminate legends about successful technologies of shale gas extraction in the territory of the USA and wide support of American people for these technologies. However, according to official studies of the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA, up to 20% – 40% of the chemicals remain underground, they are biologically undegradable and contaminate natural resources such as water and soil used by humans, plants, and animals.” This was the statement of Olena Kravchenko, executive director of international public interest environmental law organization Environment-People-Law, who presented the results of EPL’s research at the parliamentary hearings “Environmental problems of shale gas development in Ukraine” initiated by the head of the parliamentary Committee on the issues of environmental policy, use of natural resources and liquidation of consequences of Chornobyl accident Iryna Sekh.
She said that according to a Congressional investigation of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on chemicals used in fracking between 2005 and 2009, the fourteen leading oil and gas companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products. Some are seemingly harmless like sodium chloride (salt) and citric acid, some were quite unexpected, such as instant coffee and walnut hulls. But there were also 750 different chemicals and other components. Among these chemicals, 29 types of chemicals such as benzene, toluene and xylene are known carcinogens, and so the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulates these chemicals as hazardous for human health. These 29 chemicals were components of 652 products used in hydraulic fracturing.
She also mentioned that in the United States, incidents that involve leakage of methane, contaminants such as brine, unidentified chemicals, sulphates, and hydrocarbons such as benzene and toluene into underground drinking water supplies or surface waters have been reported in several states, where hydraulic fracturing takes place. Incidents even involved the explosion of residential houses due to methane building up in underground drinking water.
According to Olena Kravchenko, a recent study by Bamberger and Oswald concludes that animals, especially livestock, are sensitive to the contaminants released into the environment by drilling and by its cumulative impacts. Documentation of cases in six states strongly implicates exposure to gas drilling operations has serious health effects on humans, companion animals, livestock, horses, and wildlife.
“Another important issue is the flow-back water disposal. Hydraulic fracturing can produce over 3,8 million liters of toxic, brackish wastewater over the lifetime of an individual well. While in some US States drilling companies were able to store the wastewater in deep underground control wells, in Pennsylvania and in New York State companies ship their wastewater to municipal treatment plants. An investigation by the New York Times showed that those plants often lacked capacity to adequately screen or treat all drilling waste contaminants prior to the water being discharged into rivers that supply drinking water. Furthermore, the levels of radioactivity in the wastewater were sometimes significantly above normal and far higher than the level that sewage treatment plants can handle. This fracking wastewater was later released into rivers and streams used as sources of drinking water by millions of Pennsylvanians ”, said Olena Kravchenko.
Press-service of All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”