Researchers at the University of Texas have made a disturbing discovery. After they tested the water in 100 wells on the Barnett Shale, which contains one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the United States, they found that 29 of the wells contained levels of arsenic that was above the limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers to be safe.
The study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, discovered that the wells, which were located within a 1.8 mile radius of active drilling for natural gas, contained groundwater that was laced with high levels of heavy metals, including arsenic. In at least one of the wells, the scientists found a sample in which the level of arsenic was nearly 18 times higher than the EPA maximum safe limit of 10 parts per billion. When they compared the numbers to 10 years ago, before the natural gas boom, they found a distinct change, in that none of the wells contained arsenic levels above the EPA limit.
While the researchers refused to conclude that such a level of contamination is absolutely due to fracking activity, they did cite their data as evidence that fracking could very well be linked to pollution of the groundwater. They suggested that it was possible that the vibration from fracking operations, which they referred to as “pressure waves,” may be shaking water pipes and causing rust laced with arsenic to contaminate the fresh water.
Arsenic is poisonous, of course, and the EPA has classified it as carcinogenic. But in addition to cancer, long-term exposure can lead to other medical issues, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or immunological disorders. It also has a negative effect on the gastrointestinal system, and it can cause renal failure or an abnormal heart rhythm, and it can have negative neurological effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to even low levels of arsenic can result in nausea and vomiting, as well as a decrease in the number of red and white blood cells, damage to blood vessels and nerve sensations in the feet that feel like “pins and needles.”
A lot more research must be done, especially with regard to whether the vibrations and shaking caused by fracking are causing other problems as well, not just in Texas, but throughout the country. Scientists believe that the large amount of water, sand and chemicals that are injected into the ground during the fracking process can increase the stress on existing fault lines and cause the ground to shake. If that shaking is resulting in contamination of the groundwater, something must be done to protect the public.
If you live near a Barnett Shale drilling or fracking site, or any other drilling or fracking site in Texas, and someone in your family has become ill as a result, please see a medical professional immediately. Then, please contact the Texas Oil & Gas Industry Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm for a free consultation as soon as possible to protect your rights.