The current issue of Gallon Environment Letter leads with a story on ‘fracking chemicals’, substances injected into the earth by oil and natural gas companies seeking to ‘fracture’ the rock so as to release oil and gas deposits contained within. Clearly there is a risk that the injected chemicals will contaminate groundwater reservoirs.
Now three Democratic Members of Congress have released a report on Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing. The report is a summary of information provided to the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce by oil and gas companies.
Over a four year period from 2005 to 2009, the 14 leading oil and gas companies in the United States used 780 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products, not including water added at the well site. According to the report, twenty nine of the chemicals used in fracking are known or suspected human carcinogens, regulated under the US Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The most widely used chemical was methanol, poisonous to humans and a volatile organic air pollutant. Also widely used were benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. These are commonly found in association with petroleum and petroleum activity: the first is a human carcinogen which the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment states has some probability of harmful effects on human health at any level of exposure and the remaining three are believed to have effects on the human central nervous system.
To Gallon Letter’s knowledge there has been no disclosure of fracking chemicals used in Canada that is at all equivalent to the admittedly incomplete information provided to the US Congress.
The complete report on Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing is available at http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Hydraulic%20Fracturing%20Report%204.18.11.pdf
The current issue of Gallon Environment Letter is available at http://www.cialgroup.ca/galloncurrent.htm