Water

Unconventional oil and gas development requires extraordinary amounts of water during the extraction process. In 2019, fracking operators used an average of 14 million gallons of water per well, with the maximum amount reaching 39 million gallons for a single well. After being pumped underground to “frack” oil and gas wells, water is called “flowback,” and includes naturally occurring underground brine water– which contains dangerous levels of radiation, heavy metals, and other contaminants — mixed with the fracking chemical-laden fresh water that has been pumped into the well. The chemicals used in the fracking process are known carcinogens, while others remain entirely secret, even to the personnel in the field who are employed to use the additives. 

Flowback is disposed of by injection into underground wells, in water treatment plants, or in open air pits. Each of these disposal methods comes with enormous risks, such as contamination of drinking water sources, fresh water contamination, inducing seismic activity in the case of underground injection, human exposure to radioactivity, and increased traffic needed to transport produced water. Sometimes produced water is treated to remove some of the fracking chemicals and reused in the fracking process, but this accounts for only a portion of fracking water given that fresh water is cheaper to procure.

Shockingly, some states allow for fracking wastewater to be treated and used for agricultural purposes, for road spreading, or for commercial sale in products such as pool salts, increasing exposure pathways to toxic chemicals.

Explore these issues in depth in the FracTracker articles and maps below.

FracTracker Water Articles

https://www.kvpr.org/post/dormant-risky-new-state-law-aims-prevent-problems-idle-oil-and-gas-wells

Idle Wells are a Major Risk

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Designating a well as "idle" is a temporary solution for operators,…
DOGGR

Literally Millions of Failing, Abandoned Wells

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By Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance In…

Getting Rid of All of that Waste – Increasing Use of Oil and Gas Injection Wells in Pennsylvania

Oil and gas development generates a lot of liquid waste. Some…
Bird's eye view of an injection well (oil and gas waste disposal)

A Disturbing Tale of Diminishing Returns in Ohio

Utica oil and gas production, Class II injection well volumes,…
Map of offshore drilling in California

The Feds Trump California’s State Ban on Offshore Oil Drilling

Offshore drilling in the United States federal waters has caused…
A map of deficiencies along the Falcon Pipeline Route

The Falcon Pipeline: Technical Deficiencies

Part of the Falcon Public EIA Project In August 2016, Shell…
The proposed route for the Delmarva Pipeline. Map courtesy of FracTracker Alliance.

The Proposed Delmarva Pipeline: Environmental or economic justice concern?

A new plan is in the works to construct a natural gas pipeline…
Photo by Pat Sullivan/AP https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Fracking-research-hits-roadblock-with-Texas-law-6812820.php

California regulators need to protect groundwater from oil and gas waste this time around

By Kyle Ferrar, Western Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance California’s…

Mariner East 2: More Spills & Sinkholes Too?

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The Mariner East 2 (ME2) pipeline, currently being built by Sunoco…
Aerial image of fracking activity in Marshall County, WV, next to the Ohio River on January 26th, 2018 from approximately 1,000 to 1,200 feet, courtesy of a partnership with SouthWings and pilot Dave Warner. The camera we used was a Nikon D5300. Photo by Ted Auch, FracTracker Alliance, January 2018

Fracking’s Freshwater Supply and Demand in Eastern Ohio

Mapping Hydraulic Fracturing Freshwater Supply and Demand…

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