Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | Categories: The As It Happens Blog
Just watched Gasland over the weekend, and I have to admit, it kind of freaked me out: animals losing hair, people lighting their tapwater on fire, and other unsavoury stuff.
In Gasland, filmmaker Josh Fox heads across the USA to look into the effects of hydraulic-fracturing - or fracking - after receiving a $100-thousand offer from a gas company to extract natural gas from beneath his land holdings in Pennsylvania. He interviews lots of folks who have lots of anecdotal evidence pointing toward contamination of well and surface water and air - all related, from their perspective, to fracking.
I have a B.S frackin' C, man!
It's in Psychology, but still...
Point being, I am not about to simply accept something just because common sense points to it.
Show me some science!
Today a study out of Duke took a step toward doing just that.
They showed me some science.
All else being equal, the study found that methane levels in water drawn from wells located within one kilometre of a gas wells were - on average - a little over seventeen times that of water wells with no gas extraction well pads nearby. At maximum, methane levels at the water wells nearest the gas well were more than sixty times higher.
But what does it mean?
Quoted in The Guardian, one of the study's authors, Stephen Osborn, said:
...I would be a concerned homeowner if I lived within one kilometre of a natural gas well...
Ah. I see.
But how many natural gas extraction sites are going to be within a kilometre of someone's private water well?
Companies are expected to drill 2,000 new natural gas wells in Pennsylvania alone this year. Under current state legislation companies are allowed to sink gas wells within 200 feet of a private water well.
There's no peer-reviewed literature on the long term health effects of chronic exposure to low levels of methane in drinking water. Maybe there are no effects. We don't know. But, at the maximum levels found in the study, the science guys state that you're getting into explosion risk area.
Natural gas was supposed to be the clean fossil fuel. The safe alternative. Exploding tapwater doesn't strike me as particularly either.
I conclude that I concur with the conclusion of the scientists:
...We conclude that greater stewardship, data, and--possibly--regulation are needed to ensure the sustainable future of shale-gas extraction and to improve public confidence in its use.