What is Hydrofracking?

04.01.2012 · Posted in Uncategorized


After coming back from Spring Break, many of us went on vacation, stayed at home, or experienced a Stonehill HOPE trip. This year, I was a student leader for HOPE West Virginia, and while we were there, our group learned about how hydrofracking works and some things that we should be concerned about as a result of hydrofracking. Hydrofracking is relatively new and it involved a process in which natural gas is mined from the marcellus shale. A well that goes one or two miles into the ground is drilled, and then a horizontal path is drilled in both directions. Then water, mixed with several other chemicals, is shot through the well at very high pressures. When this high-pressure liquid interacts with the marcellus shale layer, natural gas is released and collected for future use. This process may appear simple, but there are several health hazards and environmental hazards that are a result of hydrofracking. For example, there are over 100 chemicals used in fracking fluids, some of which include 2-dibromo-3-niriloprionamide, 2-ethyl hexanol, 2-propanol, 2-propen-1-aminium, N<N-dimpethyl-N-2-propenyl-chloride, and 2-propenicacid. Some of the chemicals used in hydrofracking are extrememly toxic and corrosive, and in some cases, it is possible that these fluids can leak into the local groundwater that communities use in their homes. There have been several cases of disease and cancer, and some people’s tap water has been able to be set on fire after hydrofracking has been started near there homes.

Along with human health problems, this new mining technique is also harmful to the environment. Hydrofracking poses a threat to local wildlife where the water it needs for survival may be contaminated by fracking fluids. Also animal and bird migratory patterns may be altered or blocked due to new hydrofracking sites. Fracking also uses about 6-8 million more gallons of water than conventional mining, so more water that is suitable for consumption or wildlife use is being polluted with fracking fluids. The documentary Gasland, by Josh Fox, explores both health and environmental concerns that result from hydrofracking, and it presents the information in a way that is both helpful and accessible, making it easy for the audience to understand.

There is much controversy over this issue, especially in the states of New York in Pennsylvania. In West Virginia, where hydrofracking has been started, many residents are upset that their state is being mined by this destructive means and they are concerned about the future and beauty of their state in the next 10 years when more and more hydrofracking wells are proposed to be set up. If you don’t know much about hydrofracking, it is definitely worth finding out more. The information you find may just surprise and shock you.

-Aimee Morrison

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