Humans are not the only organisms dependent on water for survival. Plants, animals, and the entire planet Earth are dependent on water. The Earth is made up mostly Of water, but only three percent Of that water can be considered fresh enough for human consumption. With only three percent of the Earth’s water able to be consumed, it is imperative that the cleanliness of the water be sustained by all humans.
Water pollution was such a growing issue in the IIS that the government established the Clean Water Act in 1948, and then revised in 1977. The Clean Water Act made it illegal for anyone to “discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters, unless a permit was obtained” (Environmental Protection Agency, 2/12). Under the original Clean Water Act in 1948, no dumping was allowed by anyone in order to protect the cleanliness of the water. In 1977, it was amended to add that if a permit was obtained, dumping was acceptable.
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Because of the amendment, the Clean Water Act now only reduces the mount of pollutants going into our water system. Water Pollution: A Growing Issue Water pollution has become a large global issue, especially in developing countries where it is a struggle to find clean drinking water for the inhabitants of the region. There are currently seven different types of water pollution; sewage, disease causing agents, sediment pollution, inorganic plant and algal, organic compounds, radioactive substances, and thermal pollution.
These seven types can be categorized into three main types; biological, chemical, and physical. This paper will discuss chemical pollution in main water systems. Chemical water pollution can be caused by pesticides, metals, solvents, or petroleum through oil spills or runoffs. One of the other major issues not usually discussed that causes chemical water pollution is hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a type of drilling method oil companies use to drill for natural gas.
In the US, the largest natural gas deposit was discovered in the Marcella Shale, which stretches from West Virginia up to New York. The Marcella Shale is “estimated to contain more than 410 trillion pubic feet of natural gas,” (Energy from Shale. Org, 2011) supplying the US with enough natural gas and energy to last a hundred years or more. This would free the United States from dependence on foreign oil and terrorism, but at what cost? Hydraulic Fracturing The process of hydraulic fracturing is the simplest way to collect and preserve natural gas.
A pathway is created into the earth 6000 or more feet into the ground. Once the pathway enters the shale, it redirects itself at a 90 degree angle to go deep into the shale stone. Once the drill is removed, a casing of moment is put into the ground to try to protect the ground water from contamination and a mixture of water, chemicals, and sand are pressure forced into the pathway, causing mini earthquakes into the shale. Once the sand makes its way into the little cracks in the earth, it keeps the ground open so that the natural gas can escape back up through the pathway.
When a well is drilled, it can continue to be drilled up to 18 times, and each time it is being fractured, it requires one to seven thousand gallons of water. 18 times per well times seven thousand gallons of water times 34 states is an exorbitant mount Of Water being wasted. That is Only if there Was one well being drilled in each state, but that is not the case. Each state being drilled today has up to 40 wells in one area! This amount of water being taken up is depleting the 3% of the consumable water supply.
Life after “Franking” The water being used to fracture the wells can no longer be used for human consumption, since it has now been combined with 529 deadly chemicals. Furthermore, up to 70% of the nonprogrammable fracturing fluid remains underground, becoming the root cause of ground water contamination (Fox, 2010). The 30% of produced fluid that does come back up needs a place to be dumped and since it is so contaminated, it cannot be anywhere near a freshwater supply. The solution to this problem is using a pit to dump the produced water and allowing the sun to evaporate the water into the air.
The issue with this system is that the water is still touching the ground, creating a case for ground water contamination once the liquid seeps in. This also causes an issue with air pollution. An air study performed in Dish, Texas near a produced liquid tank site contained an “amazing and very high levels of now and suspected human carcinogens and neurotics” (Fox, 2010). Another study of the small town’s air supply showed “dangerously high levels of benzene, toluene, and Selene in the air” (Solicitous, 6/21).
If the town is breathing this in their air, what are they drinking in their water? Not only does hydraulic fracturing affect the water humans use to shower, cook, and drink with, it also affects the water system in the ecosystems within the drilling regions. Tankard Creek, which runs through parts Of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, was one of the ecosystems affected by the polluted water room hydraulic fracturing. Tankard Creek is an area that “contained a unique ecosystem with 161 species of fish, 14 species of mussels, salamanders, crayfish, and aquatic insects” (Marcella-Shale, 2012).
In September of 2009, the water in Tankard Creek was found to be so polluted that it killed any life form within approximately 43 miles up and downstream of the creek. According to the United States Environment Protection Agency’s analysis on the situation, “the kill has been described as massive and, in terms of mussels, complete” (Marcella-shale, 2012). Conductivity is a measurement f how well water can pass an electrical current. Rivers and other bodies of water in the US have a measured conductivity level of 50 to 1500.
Conductivity larger than 1 500 is considered unsafe for any organism to drink or live in. During the Pea’s water analysis on Tankard Creek, it was found to have a conductivity level of 50,000, more than 30 times the level of a normal body of water (Marcella-Shale, 2012). In the News In 2008, Cabot Oil and Gas started drilling in a small town in Pennsylvania called Idioms. When the residents started experiencing issues with their eater systems, state investigators intervened to test their waters. It was discovered that 18 wells were polluted with hydraulic fracturing produced water.
After 15 of the residents filed lawsuits against the oil company, they started bringing in fresh water by the truckload for the residents who were affected. Recently, in November of last year, the US government has stopped Cabot Oil from bringing in the fresh water, claiming that the oil company has “fulfilled its obligations to the residents” (Mulching, 201 2), yet those same residents are still struggling to find clean water to use. In other parts of the US, research was being conducted by Rob Jackson of Duke University to determine how much methane was in the water of wells nearby drilling sites.
Last year, during the completion of his study, he concluded that wells that were “within 1 kilometer of a shale-gas drilling site contained 1 7 times as much methane as those further away” (Although, 1/28). Since methane is a chemical not soluble in water, it can pose a fire hazard any time a spark occurs. The Big Debate Currently, oil companies are looking to expand the Marcella drilling into the Tate of New York. State officials are holding off any drilling until a thorough review has been completed.
Hydraulic fracturing can become a big concern for residents of New York City and Syracuse because both cities use unfiltered water for their daily needs. Any type of water contamination in these two cities can require building a “billion-dollar water treatment plant” (Solicitous, 6/21). Currently, two State officials are asking for a two year hold on drilling permits as well as to “ban drilling within certain distances to drinking water supplies” (Solicitous, 6/21). Although it is a small step to stopping the drilling by the oil industry, it is a first step to realizing there is a water pollution crisis in that area.
The Answer to the Crisis Even though state officials in New York are trying to put a stop to drilling in their cities, it does not help the residents whose lives have already been affected by polluted water. It would take many years and millions of dollars to clean up the water in all of the affected cities. Health issues that victims have faced due to consuming the water before knowing about the contamination issues are toxic and permanent. Although we cannot change what has already happened in the past, we can start preparing now to keep a sustainable water supply for the future.
The first step is educating the general public on water pollution, the sources, the drilling, and what they could face if drilling were to come to their cities. Holding the oil companies more accountable for their drilling areas is the second step. Congress is already focused on this step since they have introduced a climate change bill. In this bill, drilling companies have to divulge the chemicals they use for their hydraulic fracturing liquid. The EPA can then take a closer looks at the chemical list and ban chemicals that are highly toxic.
Another thing the government can address is a safer alternative to hydraulic fracturing. If there is truly a need for fracturing, then there should be more time and funding spent on finding a safer means of collecting the natural gas. According to Kara Solicitous, “there are ways to frank using nontoxic chemicals and even air, for example, which would pose less risk to drinking water’ (Solicitous, 6/21). It is a much longer process but certainly something for the government to take a closer look at. As residents of the united States, they can do their part by voicing their opinions to their local congressman.
Also, finding an organization to join will help the cause. There are 144 organizations across the United States fighting for cleaner waters in our cities and towns. Their fight for a cleaner future can only be strengthened by new members. The most important thing to preventing water pollution and contamination is to stay informed. Keeping informed about what your city and government is doing to try to keep waters clean can help prevent misrepresentation of information. There is no future for citizens of the United States if there is no water to keep them alive.