Study: increased fracking traffic, increased pollution

As reported by national newspaper, The Guardian, an academic study has revealed that increased fracking traffic could lead to an increase of air pollution. The new study, published by Newcastle University was published in the Environmental International Journal on Wednesday 24th February 2016.

A test drilling site for shale gas on the outskirts of Southport, Lancashire. (image source: Alamy)
A test drilling site for shale gas on the outskirts of Southport, Lancashire. (image source: Alamy)

The research found that the vast number of trucks required to transport water to and from unconventional shale gas extraction (USGE) sites number in the thousands. With that volume of vehicles, comes an increased volume of the toxic gas, Nitrous Oxide, otherwise known as NOX.

The study found that increases in NOX were estimated to be around 30% increase against the baseline at the busiest periods of traffic.

The study created a mathematical traffic model for a hypothetical six well site over an 85-week period. They found NOx emissions increased 6% over the course of the period, or between 18-30% for hourly NOx readings at the most intense periods of activity.

“The traffic impact of a single well pad can create substantial increases in local air quality pollutants during key activity periods,” the study said.

The study also supported long held warnings that fracking traffic will increase road damage and increase noise pollution in affected areas.

To read the article in full, click here.

Councilman Brad Koplinski chastises fracking effects on pennsylvania communities

In Pennsylvania, USA, Harrisburg City Councilman Brad Koplinski provided a press release highlighting the environmental, economic and social liabilities experienced in Pennsylvania at the hands of unconventional shale gas extraction.

Koplinski, running for candidacy for Lieutenant Governor, not only asked for tighter regulations on the process, and a closing of the ‘Halliburton Loophole’, but also underlined the need for better protection for landowners who live nearby unconventional shale gas operating plants, wether they signed land agreements with energy companies or not.

Brad Koplinski. Source: politicspa.com
Brad Koplinski. (image source: politicspa.com)

Providing the polite, yet damning press release in front of the Chapin Dehydration Station which faces a 29 litigant lawsuit, Koplinski stated that ‘nuisance’ was too light a word for the local situation which has reduced the quality of human life for local home owners, referring to the high number of detrimental effects an ‘aberration’.

He also lamented on the fact that the shale gas extraction industry makes promises and “say things that are half truths are best most of the time. That certain chemicals won’t be put into the atmosphere, that certain practices won’t be put into place, and yet they are. Through legal contracts and other regulations that they can skirt around, we’ve seen the damages that they cause, and not just here, but throughout the commonwealth.”

Unfortunately, for Koplinski and residents of Pennsylvania, the British Medical journal have already drawn attention to the fact that the process of unconventional shale gas extraction, set to arrive in County Fermanagh, cannot be made safe for local communities, regardless of the level of regulation, stating:“To the extent that they are technically and economically feasible, risk reduction technologies that mitigate adverse health outcomes should be deployed. However reviewing the public health aspects of the development of the shale gas industry requires more than merely gesturing to technological improvements that lack empirical data on their effectiveness in the real world. optimism that fail-safe engineering solutions can ensure safe shale gas development may result more from a triumph of marketing than a demonstration of experience.”

To see the press release by Councilman Koplinski in video format, click here.

Wyoming ozone pollution exceeds U.S national limit due to gas drilling

Whilst public perception on the environmental risks of unconventional shale gas extraction has focused upon the negative impacts on water quality, less attention is paid to the risks of air pollution.

Rural Wyoming, is known for its idyllic countryside. Yet, with the arrival of unconventional shale gas extraction, came a reduction in local air quality that to a state that exceeds that of the U.S. national average, and sometimes, the city of Los Angeles on its worst days.

Wyomming State
Wyomming State, where air pollution due to fracking operations has taken place.

U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), introduced as a result of the Clean Air Act, dictate legal limits of pollutants deemed harmful to public health. Limits for ground level ozone are set at 75 parts per billion (ppb).

However in 2011, preliminary tests undertaken in Wyoming found levels of ozone reaching 124 ppb, two thirds above the NAAQS legal limit.

Fuelling Ireland’s public health problems

Fuelling Ireland’s public health problems — Irish Medical Times. (click on link to read the article in full)

“[F]ive issues can be identified that raise concerns about the impact of fracking on health.   Firstly, the process of fracking uses a wide variety of chemicals,  including friction reducers, surfactants, gelling agents, scale inhibitors, acids, corrosion inhibitors, antibacterial agents and clay stabilisers. Additional naturally occurring heavy metals and radioactive materials may also be mobilised from the rock during its fracture, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, thorium and uranium and these may also interact with the chemicals in the fluid.

In addition, the possibility of accidental release of chemicals and gases through fire, vandalism, or spills and leaks from poor practices is an ongoing risk.

Toxic mud and fluid by-products from the drilling and fracking, as well as spills of oil and gas wastes, are not uncommon. The health impact of such chemicals depends on factors such as the toxicity, dose, route and duration of exposure, and the vulnerability of the people being affected…

Secondly, air may also be contaminated by volatile chemicals released during drilling (combustion from machinery and transport) and from other operations, during methane separation or by evaporation from holding ponds. Methane gas is also explosive….

Thirdly, fracking requires substantial amounts of water, 1.5 million gallons per well …  A shortage of water would pose considerable threats to health and well-being of people living in the area. The company proposes using some of the waste water for fracking. However, this will very possibly involve the burning off some of the toxic residues leading to additional air pollution, as well as storage difficulties.

Fourthly, the soil may be contaminated by drilling sludge, which may contain drilling mud, hydrocarbons, radioactive material and heavy metals. This would have serious consequences for grasslands used for leisure or agriculture purposes. The consumption of meat and or milk from animals grazing on such land would also give rise for concern.

Finally, the British Geological Survey states that it is well established that fluid injections can cause small earthquakes and fracking has been associated with two small quakes near Blackpool.

It is widely recognised that we need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gasses. The adoption of fracking is a step away from a solution to the problem of climate change. We must leave any remnants of fossil fuel in the ground, instead of seeking ever more expensive and environmentally destructive methods of extracting them. … In the interests of public health, we must not allow fracking in Ireland.

Any tragedy is upsetting; an avoidable tragedy is all the more so.”

(Dr. Elizabeth Cullen)