Fracking creates toxic waste such as fracking fluids, rock debris, produced water and pit linings which all need proper disposal.
Fracking fluid disposal
Fracking fluid is typically 99 percent water and sand (or other granulated material) and approximately one percent chemicals. A recent change in COGCC regulations will allow more of the chemicals to be public knowledge beginning in April 2012, but "trade secrets" remain secret unless requested by a doctor in order to treat their patient, for example.
Fracking chemicals are linked to bone, liver and breast cancers, gastrointestinal, circulatory, respiratory, developmental as well as brain and nervous system disorders.
Before being disposed of in local landfills, it should first be tested to determine if it contains hazardous materials, which includes testing for ingredients deemed "trade secrets."
How much fracking fluid needs to be disposed of?
"We now use five to 10 'frac' jobs per well, with up to 100 million gallons of fluid used per frac," says geologist Geoffrey Thyne of the University of Wyoming.
According to a recent COGCC presentation, "Some fluids flowback prior to production. Flowback is collected in the flowback tanks (or lined pits). Most of the rest is produced from the well. Small percentages may remain in production formation. The frac fluid is reused at another site or disposed of into injection wells or other E&P waste disposal facilities."
Estimates of how much fracking fluid remains in the ground vary considerably. According to industry, 30 to 40 percent is never recovered.
Disposal of produced water
Produced water contains fracking chemicals, highly concentrated salts, oil, grease and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). It comes from naturally occurring water that which is separated from oil or natural gas during the production process.
According to COGCC, about 60% of the produced water in Colorado goes into deep and closely-regulated waste injection wells, 20% evaporates from lined pits and 20% is discharged as usable surface water under permits from the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.
Evaporation is a common disposal method in the Piceance Basin, while surface discharges are common in the Raton Basin, where coalbed methane is produced, water production is significant, and the water meets or can be treated to meet surface discharge standards.
Produced water can also be sprayed on dirt roads to reduce dust, if authorized by the surface owner outside sensitive areas. It should not result in pooling or runoff and is supposed to meet allowable concentrations in Table 910-1. (COGCC Rule 907.c.2.D)
Sensitive areas are defined as "vulnerable to significant adverse impacts to ground water or surface water," such as within 1/8 mile of a domestic water well or within 1/4 mile of a public water supply well. "When the operator or the Director have data that indicate there is an impact or a threat of impact to ground water or surface water, a sensitive area determination may be required."
According to the Bureau of Land Management, in Colorado the majority of fluids used in the fracturing process are recycled and no fluids are sent to wastewater treatment plants.
According to Chesapeake's information on produced water recycling in Colorado, "Not all produced water can be recycled or reused for other drilling operations. In some cases, the mineral content of the produced water is simply too high. For example, regardless of the formation, current hydraulic fracturing technologies require the use of water with a lower mineral content. Specifically, calcium, magnesium, barium and sulfate all contribute to scaling, which can significantly reduce the productivity of a well. Furthermore, extremely high salt content makes the injection fluid difficult to pump downhole, increasing the power requirements and resulting in higher volumes of chemicals needed to reduce friction. State regulations play a major role in the industry's ability to recycle or reuse produced water. In addition, wellsite location is also a factor for produced water management. For instance, in some areas well locations are widely spaced. Due to this distance, the creation and operation of a centralized treatment facility would result in higher volumes of truck traffic than that associated with the disposal of the fluid in a nearby saltwater injection well (SWD). In fact, even when produced water is treated or distilled, the salt content which is filtered out must still be transported and disposed of properly."
Filtering out toxins in produced water is beyond the capabilities of normal water treatment facilities.
Problems with produced water disposal
Fracking chemicals, oil and grease are in produced water. Salt content of produced water can be more than twice the salinity of seawater.
Produced water can also contain naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) such as uranium, thorium and radium.
"Shales, more than any other kind of rock, selectively trap heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, barium, strontium, and chromium," said Ron Bishop, a biochemist SUNY Oneonta.
If sprayed on roads, rain washes produced water into nearby streams and ponds. Are surface discharge standards adequate considering the increasing quantities of produced water discharged onto roads and into streams or rivers?
Does Colorado regulate the amount of radioactivity in produced water?
In 1996, STRONGER Colorado Hydraulic Fracturing State Review recommended that COGCC gather information on the occurrence and level of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) to enable the state to develop an appropriate program for its regulation.
In June 2011, when STRONGER asked the status of that effort, COGCC indicated that it has not been accomplished.
Environmentalists and Lawmakers Call for a State Moratorium on Hydrofracking for Natural Gas http://www.indypendent.org/2010/06/14/environmentalists-and-lawmakers-call-state-moratorium-hydrofracking-natural-gas
Boom in gas drilling fuels contamination concerns in Colorado
Colorado Water Recycling - Chesapeake
Health Impacts of Gas Drilling Examined
How fracking is harmful
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