Climate Action

Fracking in Your Backyard

It has been reported that 650,000 children nationwide grow up within a mile of an oil or gas fracking operation. Fracking causes a lot of environmental harm and poses a threat to the health of a population near a fracking site due to contaminated water and the increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.   These health effects pose more severe risks for children and the elderly. Recent research has proved that there has been a link between fracking and migraines, and last month, it was further predicted that children in the United States will experience around 750,000 asthma attacks each summer by 2025 as a direct result of the oil and gas industries’ fracking efforts.   Benzene is a highly dangerous and toxic chemical. This chemical is used in fracking in the drilling fluid. This “sweet-smelling,” clear liquid has been known to cause cancer. Benzene is not banned in fracking, and drillers do not need a permit to use Benzene. In addition, it reacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to create smog, which can attach to rain and snow and be carried to the ground, contaminating both water and soil. With regard to wildlife, Benzene makes fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals sick and can prevent them from reproducing, change their appearance, and shortening their lives. As for plants, the chemical affects the soil, slowing down growth and killing green life.   What this means for Wheeling Park High School   In 2012, Encana, a natural gas company, established a new fracking site next to the Red Hawk and Erie Schools (Erie, Colorado). This site was approximately 1,600 feet from the schools, which had 750 students in attendance. Parents were quick to raise their voices against the company. They protested the fracking site being so close to their children’s schools: “a place where benzene emissions could sicken their developing lungs; where an accident could trigger a deadly explosion; where school buses could collide with trucks carrying toxic wastewater; where leaks of the chemical-laden wastewater could poison their wells.”   The concerns and 21,000 anti-fracking petitions by parents prompted Encana to adopt a “closed-loop” system of fracking—where the fluid never touches the ground. Fumes are contained in steel tanks, and the use of fresh water is reduced. In addition, Encana will only drill during the summer when the children were not in school.   Although the school and parents won a partial victory—making a compromise with the company, but not get rid of fracking completely—it is still a major health and environmental concern among residents living near drilling sites.   William Pappas, Intern