Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water, chemicals, and sand into shale rock formations at high pressures to shatter the rock and release the gas. Fracking a single gas well can use millions of gallons of water and hundreds of tons of chemicals. Over 70% of fracking fluid remains in the ground and is not biodegradable. Watch the 2 1/2 minute musical video that explains fracking:
Fracking is used in 36 states with widely varied regulations. Drillers use the technique in new areas without adequate government oversight that fully evaluates the effects on human health and the environment. By using large amounts of water, fracking can cause a shortage of local water resources. The chemicals used, which drillers claim are proprietary secrets, can poison drinking water, rivers, and lakes from toxic underground leaks and above ground spills. Documents obtained by the New York Times show that fracking wastewater containing radioactivity far higher than federal regulations say is safe is sometimes hauled to sewage plants which cannot adequately treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water. There have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination near drilling sites around the country.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently studying the effect of fracking on drinking water resources. The research includes the full lifespan of water in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage, including the management of flowback and produced water and its ultimate treatment and disposal. The initial study results are expected by the end of 2012, and the final report will be issued in 2014.