Up to 96 percent of wastewater from fracking is from naturally occurring salts and brines, not man-made fracking fluids, a new study published Monday by Duke University concluded.
Duke researchers found that between 92 and 96 percent of wastewater coming out of fracking wells was comprised of naturally occurring brines and salts which were extracted along with the gas and oil. Only about 4 to 8 percent of the wastewater included man-made chemicals.
“Much of the public fear about fracking has centered on the chemical-laden fracking fluids—which are injected into wells at the start of production—and the potential harm they could cause if they spill or are disposed of improperly into the environment,” Dr. Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University, said in a press statement. “Our new analysis, however, shows that these fluids only account for between 4 and 8 percent of wastewater being generated over the productive lifetime of fracked wells in the major U.S. unconventional oil and gas basins.”
Fracking wastewater disposal is one of the biggest objections to the process from mainstream environmental groups like The Sierra Club, which claims that fracking can “contaminate drinking water, pollute the air, and cause earthquakes.”
“Most of the fracking fluids injected into these wells do not return to the surface; they are retained in the shale deep underground,” Vengosh said. “This means that the probability of having environmental impacts from the man-made chemicals in fracking fluids is low, unless a direct spill of the chemicals occurs before the actual fracking.”
Dr. Vengosh points out that many of these brines have the potential to be incredibly useful. There are already methods to distill wastewater used in the fracking, and purify it so that it can be reused or discharged. These techniques separate out and re-sell the various brines and salts for use in the chemical manufacturing industry. Some of the fracking components are even used as rock salt to treat local roadways in the winter.
Numerous other scientific studies from regulatory bodies, academics, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have determined that fracking doesn’t contaminate drinking water.
“From our assessment, we conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources. We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States,” according to a five-year study on the impacts of fracking published by the (EPA) in June, 2015.
Environmentalists responded to these studies with total denial, saying “millions of Americans know that fracking contaminates groundwater and for the EPA to report any differently only proves that the greatest contamination from the industry comes from its influence and ownership of our government.”
Fracking earthquake myths from environmentalists frequently confuse fracking with wastewater disposal. These myths are so widespread that the USGS actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them. Environmental groups frequently blame fracking for just about everything, including droughts, drinking water contamination, flaming tap-water, poverty, income inequality, and even low sperm counts.
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