Gasland, a new documentary by filmmaker, Josh Fox, and premiering on HBO Monday, June 21st, investigates natural gas drilling in the United States. It takes a hard look at the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing – a process that stimulates the production of oil and natural gas by injecting fluids underground at high pressures that ultimately create fractures in rocks that allow the oil or gas to flow more freely.
Some of the fluids that are used, such as diesel fuel, and considered to be hazardous and cancer causing, remain trapped underground and have the ability to contaminate groundwater resources. U.S. experts believe the process of hydraulic fracturing is the prime suspect in polluting drinking water in Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
A Bureau of Land Management Environmental Impact Statement dated 1998 lists the wide assortment of hazardous substances potentially used as gelling agents in fracturing including benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ethylbenzene, methanol, to name a few. Although much of the injected fracturing fluids are pumped out of the ground, 20 to 30 percent of the fluids may remain in the ground.
A paper prepared in January 2002 by the Natural Resources Defense Council documents a number of citizen complaints of contaminated sources of drinking water near hydraulic fracturing sites. One such case is of an Alabama family that contends their family’s water well became contaminated in June 1989 with “brown, slimy, petroleum smelling fluid that was similar to the discharged hydraulic fracturing fluid that traveled downhill from the USX-Amoco methane well near their house (reportedly killing all plant and animal life in its path.)”
According to Harold Fitch, Michigan’s Office of Geological Survey Director, in the paper Regulatory Statements on Hydraulic Fracturing Submitted By The States June 2009, “Hydraulic fracturing has been utilized extensively for many years in Michigan, in both deep formations and in the relatively shallow Antrim Shale formation. There are about 9,900 Antrim wells in Michigan producing natural gas at depths of 500 to 2000 feet. There is no indication that hydraulic fracturing has ever caused damage to groundwater or other resources in Michigan.”
In Michigan, if you have questions or concerns about the groundwater in your area, please contact the Office of Geological Survey office in Lansing, Michigan, at 517-241-1515 or visit their website.
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