water contamination & other environmental & public health risks
Shale fracking utilizes massive amounts of water, and the necessary surface or ground water withdrawals may result in or worsen overdrawn aquifers, reduced stream flows, and associated impacts to riparian and aquatic habitat and ecosystems. In addition, at the drill site, surface spills and other releases of fracking fluid, “flowback” water, production brine, and other pollutants can foul nearby streams and creeks, while transport and disposal of the water presents additional risks of spills.
And in contrast to past fracking, which was typically conducted in shallow geologic formations such as coal beds, shale fracking involves blasting the water, sand, and chemicals as much as two miles below the surface, posing risks of contamination to drinking water aquifers. A recent study conducted by researchers at Duke University found that methane levels increased with proximity to gas wells that had been fracked, possibly due to inadequate well construction. The EPA is also currently conducting a major study in an effort to better understand the potential impacts of fracking on drinking water and groundwater.
In addition to its risks to water quality and supply, fracking operations can destroy or fragment wildlife habitat, degrade air quality through emissions of hazardous pollutants, contribute to induced seismicity (i.e. cause earthquakes), and emit high concentrations of greenhouse gases. Noise, odors, visual quality, road use, and overall industrialization can all directly impact nearby human communities.
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