1. Hydrocarbon leak contaminates groundwater in Parahcute, Colorado
Parachute, Colorado, is a small town of around 1,000 inhabitants, located in a primarily agricultural part of Colorado.
|On March 8,
2013, workers digging trenches for Williams Energy, a shale gas company
active in the area, reported a discovery of soil contaminated by
hydrocarbons. On March 15, groundwater contamination was reported at a
distance of 60 feet from Parachute Creek, a source of drinking water and
irrigation water which feeds into the Colorado River. As of March 28,
176,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater and 6,000 gallons of
hydrocarbons that have been identified as a natural gas product had been
recovered from the site. Groundwater near the site was found to contain
between 5,800 and 18,000 ppb of benzene. The state health standard is 5 ppb.
On April 10, it was reported that the source of the leak had been identified as a failed valve. By April 18, trace amounts of benzene (2.8 ppb) was found in Parachute Creek, 1,200 ft downstream from the leak site.
Todd Hartman, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources was quoted by local media as saying, "We consider this a serious event. Oil is a contaminate, a toxin, and you don't want it in the environment."
2. Health risks from chemicals released during natural gas production
A peer-reviewed study, from November 2012, published by the Texas Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX), "An exploratory study of air quality near natural gas operations",
sampled air quality before, during, and after natrual gas operations in
rural western Colorado, and found many non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs)
in concentrations high enough to pose health risks. The study also
noted that 30 of the chemicals found (including benzene), are considered
to be endocrine disruptors, which have adverse health effects at even
extremely low concentrations. TEDX has also published a list of chemicals associated with natural gas operations. Here is a list of endocrine disruptors, for comparison.
Finally, here is a report
published by the US House or Representatives Committee on Energy and
Commerce in 2011, which details the chemicals known to be used in
hydraulic fracturing. One of the report's authors, Rep. Diana DeGette,
made this comment:
“Of particular concern to me is that we learned that over the four-year
period studied, over one and a half million gallons of carcinogens were
injected into the ground in Colorado. Many companies were also unable to
even identify some of the chemicals they were using in their own
activities, unfortunately underscoring that voluntary industry
disclosure is not enough to ensure the economic benefits of natural gas
production do not come at the cost of our families' health.”
3. Why gas wells leak
On of the
myths about unconventional gas production is that the gas wells rarely
leak, so there is little risk of groundwater contamination. Dr. Tony
Ingraffea (see SGBI No. 2), debunks this myth in this video presentation. Here is a text explanation by Dr. Ingraffea.
Dr. Ingraffea and Chip Northrup are both featured in the short, informative video Fracking Hell.