Business Spectator - Barry Estabrook, Salon.com 20.5.2011
“This fracking ruptures the earth, creating fissures through which the gas passes — along with a witch’s brew of carcinogens, acutely poisonous heavy metals, and radioactive elements.
There has been a lot a media lately about what fracking is doing to many drinking water supplies across the country. But the other side of fracking — what it might do to the food eaten by people living hundreds of miles from the nearest gas well — has received little attention.
“For sustainable agriculture, fracking is a disaster,” says Jaffe.”
Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture quarantined 28 cattle belonging to Don and Carol Johnson, who farm about 175 miles southwest of Jaffe. The animals had come into wastewater that leaked from a nearby well that showed concentrations of chlorine, barium, magnesium, potassium, and radioactive strontium. In Louisiana, 16 cows that drank fluid from a fracked well began bellowing, foaming and bleeding at the mouth, then dropped dead. Homeowners near fracked sites complain about a host of frightening consequences, from poisoned wells to sickened pets to debilitating illnesses.
The Marcellus Shale itself contains ethane, propane, and butane, arsenic, cobalt, lead, chromium — toxins all. Uranium, radium, and radon make the shale so radioactive that companies sometimes drop Geiger counters into wells to determine whether they have reached the gas-rich deposits. But those compounds are almost benign compared to the fracking fluids that drillers inject into the wells. At least 596 chemicals are used in fracking, but the companies are not required by law to divulge the ingredients, which are considered trade secrets.
According to a report prepared for the Ground Water Protection Council, a national association of state agencies charged with protecting the water supply, a typical recipe might include hydrochloric acid (which can damage respiratory organs, eyes, skin, and intestines), glutaraldehyde (normally used to sterilise medical equipment and linked to asthma, breathing difficulties, respiratory irritation, and skin rashes), N,N-dimethylformamide (a solvent that can cause birth defects and cancer), ethylene glycol (a lethal toxin), and benzene (a potent carcinogen). Some of these chemicals stay in the ground. Others are vented into the air. Many enter the water table or leach into ponds, streams, and rivers.”