You may have heard of fracking in the documentary film, Gasland (or maybe in Battlestar Galactica where it’s used as a more polite substitute for other insults). In this blog entry I am referring to the former definition.
On Sunday, I travelled to Dimock in Pennsylvania to talk to Craig and Julie Sautner about the consequences of living near “fracking” sites. What is fracking? It’s another term for hydraulic fracturing, a method of natural gas extraction employed in deep natural gas well drilling. Once a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected, under high pressure, into a well. The pressure fractures the shale and props open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well.
The potential harm to health and the environment is under-researched and films like Gasland and the testimonies of those like the Sautners, is a massive cause for concern. The Sautners have not had clean running water for almost two years and are not able to sell their home and move because of this. Instead, they have to use spring water provided to them by the barrel. In the meantime they are breathing in air that they believe is being contaminated by the drilling of gas companies.
On our trip, at least three of my colleagues felt nauseous upon arriving in Dimock. One has a sensitivity to chemicals and said she could taste metal on her tongue as soon as she entered the town.
The Sautners vow to stand firm against any continuation of the drilling as a moratorium passed last year to stop gas companies drilling for a time, comes to an end. The Sautners are calling for more research on the health and environmental fallout of “fracking” as well as a clean water supply.