PURE FOOD WATCH - August 2013
At the same time that we are battling to have genetically engineered foods labeled, another threat to our food supply is emerging. The Marcellus shale stratum, compressed layers of Devonian rock consisting of silt, clay and carbon underlies much of New York, Pennsylvania
and West Virginia and is estimated to contain 450 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This has attracted much interest from government and the gas industry. Capitalizing on the promise they can free us from dependence on foreign oil, and touting natural gas as a "clean" fuel, the industry persuaded the politicians to impose no regulations on them including the provisions of the Clean Water Act. Similar to the fact that no regulations were imposed on the Biotech industry, this was a terrible mistake.
New drilling and fracking techniques make it possible to extract oil and natural gas from shale and other dense rocks that were previously inaccessible. Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" is the process of injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into wells at
high pressure to crack open dense rock formations and release oil or gas. The combination of advanced fracking and horizontal drilling technologies has made it feasible to extract large quantities of shale oil or shale gas. After drilling millions of gallons of fracking fluid are injected to crack the rock apart and release the gas.
Depending on the geology, between 25 to 75% of the millions of gallons of fracking fluid used for each well, returns to the surface as wastewater. The waste water often contains volatile harmful organic compounds such as benzene and toluene. Water contamination from fracking can and has gravely impacted farm lands, putting our food sources at risk. There have been documented cases of animals that have consumed contaminated waterfrom wells, springs and ponds, causing illness, reproductive issues and death. These incidents have occurred due to accidents, leaks and spills. There also is the concern whether the milk or meat from affected animals is safe for human
consumption. he chemicals that hurt the livestock also hurt rural residents. Water contamination has been identified in over 1,000
cases near oil and gas drilling sites. The EPA has found well water in Sublette, WY., containing chemicals used in fracking including 1,500 times the level of benzene considered safe for drinking. Multiple residents have complained of contaminated wells and mysterious illnesses in the area. Waste water produced by fracking contains high levels of radioactivity that waste water treatment plants are not equipped to remove. It has been found in the Monongahela River and threatened the drinking water of thousands of people in West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. When fracking loosens gas, it can cause methane to migrate into nearby household wells and drinking water. One house blew up in Pennsylvania killing three people.
Besides contamination, fracking competes with agriculture for access to fresh water. Modern fracking requires millions of gallons of water for each well and wide spread shale development can compete with essential water needs. Most of the land over the shale gas stratum is in rural areas. In areas like Dimock, PA., the gas industry initially leased the land from the owners for $25/acre, plus a royalty of a percentage of the income from the gas produced from the site. There were few restrictions placed on the gas company including the number of wells that could be erected on their property. One farmer wound up with twelve wells on his property. When problems such as contaminated water and being able to ignite the water from the tap began to occur, the promise of riches faded quickly.
I am not aware of any fracking operations at present in New Jersey, but there are shale strata in central and north Jersey. The imminent threat is a proposal to run a fracked-gas pipeline through the Pinelands and build a massive natural gas facility off the NJ coast at Port Ambrose. The Pinelands are a precious natural resource that must be preserved. We are also blessed with a wonderful aquifer that naturally filters our water, which we can not afford to have contaminated in any way. Contact Gov. Chris Cristie and the Pineland Commissioners and oppose this pipeline and Port Ambose project and urge that the dumping of fracking-waste be banned in New Jersey.