If you've been wondering what fracking is and whether it's good or bad, you're not alone. It's a complicated, high tech process whose advocates say it produces abundant clean energy. As an environmentalist as well as a consumer, though, I've been concerned about the impacts fracking is having on drinking water, clean air, and farmland. To try to chip away at my confusion, I electronically interviewed expert Maya van Rossum (pictured left). Maya is the Delaware Riverkeeper, the spokesperson for and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), a nonprofit environmental organization working to preserve, protect and restore the Delaware River Watershed, an area that extends into four states: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Here's what she had to say.
Maya, in a nutshell, can you explain what fracking is and why it worries you?
Fracking is the process of discharging massive volumes of water under high pressure into a drilled well in order to fracture the shale found under ground. The fracking process requires 5 to 9 million gallons of water for each well frack. Often this water comes from aquifers, streams and rivers. To that fresh water has been added toxic chemicals. Water that stays underground after the fracking has occurred is highly toxic, but the water that comes back to the surface is even more toxic.
The toxified fluid trapped underground can make its way to our freshwater aquifers, threatening drinking water supplies. Toxified water that gets back to the surface of the earth is often stored in open pits or transported to other sites by truck or piping. In all of these activities, failures happen, contaminating streams, farmlands, our air and our communities.