As public concern continues over the environmental costs of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, one United Kingdom company said they would toss wastewater from their operations into the sea. Fracking demands huge quantities of water, up to six million gallons per well, but anywhere from 20 to 40 percent comes back to the surface as “flowback” filled with metals, salts, and naturally occurring radioactive materials. While they said the wastewater would be treated, some experts have expressed unease over how effective treatment would be.
Chemical company INEOS said in the past they would like to be the largest player in the shale gas industry. They already hold 21 shale licenses. In North Yorkshire, where councillors approved fracking tests, one resident received an email from INEOS in March that described how they plan to deal with flowback. INEOS Upstream Director Tom Pickering said, “We will capture and contain it, treat it back to the standards agreed…with the Environmental Agency and discharge where allowed under permit, most likely the sea.”
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Treated wastewater perhaps sounds slightly less bad than wastewater, except that experts don’t know how safe such treatment would be. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management told the Environmental Agency (EA) in March, “…we are concerned about the ability to treat flowback fluid at the present time.”
The Natural Environmental Research Council released a report last year stating there was a “huge uncertainty” regarding regulatory mechanisms around cleaning the wastewater. They also noted that since fracking is still a relatively young industry, there’s not much information on just how much wastewater fracking will produce.
A North Yorkshire council approved fracking tests even though they received 4,375 objections. The Greenpeace Science Unit’s Dr. Paul Johnston said, if the flowback water is dumped into the sea, it would be “a retrograde step” for environmental protection.
Via The Guardian
Images via INEOS Facebook and DAVID HOLT on Flickr