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Issue No. 7 - May 1, 2013

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.
Fracking contaminates groundwater
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

Profile Of Health Impacts From Fracking Fluids

The people of Colorado have reason to be concerned not only about their drinking water, but also about their air quality. A recent peer-reviewed study, "Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources" found that people living within 1/2 mile of unconventional natural gas operations in Colorado are at a greater risk of health problems including cancer.

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.

Another expert on well leaks and how they occur is James "Chip" Northrup, a former petroleum industry investor. Here is one of his slide presentations.

Dr. Ingraffea and Chip Northrup are both featured in the short, informative video Fracking Hell.

Issue No. 6     April 15, 2013

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