Gasland–marcellus shale in PA
June 8, 2010, 8:36 pm
Filed under: marcellus, movies, pittsburgh, utilities

What does the happy couple get up to on a Saturday night? Doode and I went out to a screening of Gasland downtown. Marcellus shale is a hot topic in our area. Many people are being approached to sign leases for drilling on their land. It’s a lot of money. Our well guy said one friend of his got a check at signing for 800000?! It’s a lot of temptation. And when your neighbors are doing it, at some point it becomes a non-issue. You might remember our drive out to the east of the state, when we saw the signs of MAJOR drilling activity. In some really poor looking areas, lots of machinery coming in, rigs on the road, etc. It’s a really big deal.

But it’s also pretty scary….

There are major impacts to be thinking about, to the water table and to the air (I didn’t realize the air quality issues part). The process uses “Frac water” gigantic amounts of chemically infused water solution to fracture the shale to release the gas. It uses MILLIONS of gallons of water to drill a well. As one document notes, “If one well requires 2 million gallons of water for one fracking, that’s 366, 5,460 gallon tanker trucks hauling fresh water and 183, 5,460 gallon tanker trucks hauling waste.” This quote should alert you to the scary fact that they are only able to get 50% of this chemical concoction back out.

And this “produced water” gets put into holding ponds for evaporation. Or it gets shipped to sewage treatment plants where it is simply put into the system in small proportions–ie…it is not actually filtered out just sent out at “acceptable” levels. Sigh. The industry is not regulated enough–and Bush passed a law to exempt the drilling from Clean Water laws. There have been issues in our area–for example a big fish kill. Algae showed up and caused the problem,”Our biggest concern is how the conditions were created in Dunkard Creek that allowed that algae to thrive,” Mr. Sternberg said. “If we see a saltwater algae in a freshwater creek, we know there must be something very wrong.” Something wrong indeed. Here’s a short article that outlines some of the issues. And here‘s a good report that links to some scientific studies of the water issues. As one resident noted, “You have to evaluate which is more important, the money or the water,” said a Dimock resident who declined to be named because he doesn’t want to antagonize Cabot, which he says will pay him more than $600,000 this year for the wells on his property.”

The documentary, in addition to talking about the water quality issues, talks about air quality. The compressors that move the gas vent out toxic stuff too. They run day and night and release harmful toxins into the air.

For more on the topic….a useful blog with good links…marcelluseffect (new york based). Texas has had a longer experience with this kind of drilling. For info on their issues…the Star Telegram has a blog.


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