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News > World

Fracking Produces Billions of Gallons in Toxins, Wastewater

  • People hold anti-fracking posters during a protest in California, United States.

    People hold anti-fracking posters during a protest in California, United States. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 April 2016

A new report found that fracking in the U.S. produces 250 billion gallons of wastewater and 2 billion chemicals that could contaminate drinking water.

The rapid expansion of fracking in the United States is posing major threats to nearby communities by contaminating drinking water and spreading diseases, according to a new report by the Environment America released Thursday.


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“Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012,” the report warned. “This toxic wastewater often contains cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, and has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico.”

The report said fracking is currently taking place in at least 17 states, with more than 80,000 wells drilled or permitted since 2005. Also major oil and gas companies are seeking to expand into states like New York, California and North Carolina.

“In New Mexico alone, waste pits from all oil and gas drilling have contaminated groundwater on more than 400 occasions,” the report said.

In terms of air pollution, the report said that fracking released 450,000 tons of pollutants into the air across the U.S. which could have immediate health impacts.

“Air pollution from fracking contributes to the formation of ozone 'smog,' which reduces lung function among healthy people, triggers asthma attacks, and has been linked to increases in school absences, hospital visits and premature death.”


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Meanwhile, more than 2 billion gallons of chemicals used in thousands of fracking sites around the country have the potential to cause cancer and are capable of infiltrating drinking water sources from leaks and spills.

“In Pennsylvania, state regulators identified 161 instances in which drinking water wells were impacted by drilling operations between 2008 and the fall of 2012,” the report found.

“In New Mexico, state records show 743 instances of all types of oil and gas operations polluting groundwater – the source of drinking water for 90 percent of the state’s residents.”

Fracking is a form of extraction that injects large volumes of chemical-laced water into shale, releasing pockets of oil and gas. Due to the low cost of production, the fracking industry has been on the rise in the U.S. over the past decade.

“For the past decade, fracking has been a nightmare for our drinking water, our open spaces, and our climate,” Rachel Richardson, a co-author of the paper from Environment America, told ThinkProgress.

The report recommended U.S. states prohibit fracking because its “scale and severity” are beyond “constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling.”
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