Research into the Fracking
4/11/2011 - University of Cincinnati - The turmoil in
oil-producing nations is triggering turmoil at home, as rising oil
prices force Americans to pay more at the pump.
Meanwhile, there’s a
growing industry that’s promising jobs and access to cheaper energy
resources on American soil, but it’s not without its controversy.
Deborah Kittner, a University
of Cincinnati doctoral student in geography, presents, “What’s the
Extraction Industry’s Neglect of the Locals in the
Pennsylvania Marcellus Region,”
was presented at the annual meeting of the
Association of American Geographers.
Fracking involves using millions of gallons of water, sand and a
chemical cocktail to break up organic-rich shale to release natural
Kittner’s research examined the industry in
Pennsylvania, known as the “sweet spot” for this resource, because
of the abundance of natural gas.
Pittsburgh has now outlawed fracking in its city limits as has Buffalo, N.Y., amid concerns that
chemical leaks could contaminate groundwater, wells and other water
The EPA is now doing additional study on the relationship of
hydraulic fracturing and drinking water and groundwater after
congress stated its concern about the potential adverse impact that
the process may have on water quality and public health.
attended an EPA hearing and also interviewed people in the hydraulic
She says billions of dollars from domestic as
well as international sources have been invested in the industry.
The chemical cocktail used in the process is actually relatively
The mixture is about 95-percent water, nearly five percent
sand, and the rest chemical, yet, Kittner says some of those
chemicals are known toxins and carcinogens, hence, the “not in my
backyard” backlash from communities that can be prospects for
The flow-back water from drilling is naturally a very
salty brine, prone to bacterial growth, and potentially contaminated
with heavy metals, Kittner says.
In addition, there’s the question
of how to properly dispose of millions of gallons of contaminated
water, as well as concerns about trucking it on winding, rural back
Based on her research, Kittner says that overall, the industry is
“working to be environmentally responsible, and it becomes
frustrated at companies that do otherwise.”
“I think that the study that the EPA is doing is going to be really
helpful, and the industry – however reluctant to new regulations –
is working with the EPA on this,” Kittner says.
Kittner has lived in Ft. Thomas, Ky., for two decades, but is
originally from Warren, Pa. Her research took her to an EPA public
meeting in Canonsburg, Pa., where she audio-taped 114 people
presenting public statements of what they wanted the EPA study to
That study is expected to be completed in 2012 and will
include an examination of what to do with millions of gallons of
contaminated flow-back water.