Sunday, April 24, 2011

Protect Lake Ainslie

At the request of my mother, I just sent this letter to the Cape Breton Post and the Chronicle Herald:

Dear Editor,

I am a Plant Science Ph.D. Candidate at McGill University, but my family has lived for 7 generations on Cape Breton Island. Although Nova Scotian politicians and environmental regulators likely stand to profit personally by allowing the hydraulic fracturing project near Lake Ainslie, we must encourage them collectively to put an end to the project. There are dangers of which people do not seem to be aware.

Hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, is a procedure used in the extraction of natural gas and oil. A mixture of water, sand, and chemicals is injected into natural gas wells, or coalbeds, under high pressure. Fracking fluid loss to the surrounding formation through the walls of the fracture, and poroelasticity effects associated with the compression of the formation, establish an advective transport regime within the formation and displace the fluids that are initially distributed within the formation, which is to say that fluid displacement initiated by fracking has the potential to mobilize contaminants - including those contaminants occuring there prior to fracking. This process should not be going on near residences that use wells for drinking water. Fracking contributes to groundwater contamination with methane in some instances and proprietary chemicals, among them methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, hydrochloric acid, and sodium hydroxide. A wide variety of chemicals, the identities of which are not publicly available, are used in fracking fluid, for fluid viscosity, inhibiting corrosion, and limiting bacterial growth. Most of the chemicals known to be involved in this procedure pose a threat to public health.

Companies will probably choose, within an environmental impact statement, methods and procedures that appear to be benign, however they may not actually use the chemicals or methods they popularize. The concerned public must be aware that any research fracking industrialists refer to ought to include the direct monitoring of water wells, and it should not be limited to any one specific type of drilling, and it should address the effects in many substrates.

A large volume of back-flow fluids, on the order of hundreds of thousands of gallons per well, according to the EPA, are brought to the surface during drilling and production. Back-flow fluids are typically stored in on-site pits, which may or may not be lined and in any case will most likely not be covered, depending on what regulations or standards this project chooses to follow. It needs to be said that the standards and enforcement regarding oil and gas waste disposal are not adequate to ensure any kind of proper performance.

Thanks in part to the film GASLAND, by Josh Fox ( fracking is widely known to pollute ground and surface waters. It is known to have adverse effects on water quality and public health. However, it may also trigger earthquakes. This claim is not new and attention to it has been renewed following the earthquakes at Cleburne, Texas - the first in the town's 140-year history. Dr. David Oppenheimer, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, was quoted in the August 2009 "Global Monitor" section in POWER Magazine, affirming that the fracking processes could certainly generate seismic activity.

I hope the people of Cape Breton Island read what I've written here and learn more about fracking themselves. We all have to put an end to the destruction of the island for ephemeral profit.