Our organization began in 2014 as a unified front against hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking'. During that time, our region was being explored by companies interested in extracting shale gas from under the Dan River Basin. Our group helped organize our communities and voiced our opposition to our local and state officials, leading to many local moratoriums against fracking.
Fracking is the process of removing gas or oil from shale rock deep within the earth. The extraction begins by drilling a well vertically and/or horizontally, typically 6,000 to 10,000 feet below the surface. A water and chemical mix is then injected into the well at high pressure, fracturing the shale rock in multiple areas. The oil or gas is then released through the created fissures and extracted at the wellhead.
Risks to Environment and Property
Though the potential ‘fracking boom’ of northern NC and Southern VA has fallen silent over the last few years due to the lowered cost of oil, our unique shale formations will always be of interest to big polluting industries seeking a quick profit in the future. Much of the upper Dan River in NC and Banister River in VA run along the Triassic Rift basin, a shallow shale formation running across the basin from the SW to the NE, that houses methane gases sought for extraction. Smaller portions of the Mayo and Smith Rivers in VA and NC cross this basin as well. Fracking poses very high risks to groundwater contamination in any setting. Here in our basin, our shallow shale depths sit closely alongside our aquifers. The large amount of wastewater that each fracking well would require (9.6 million gallons per well) is left in the ground after the well is closed, bringing great risk of aquifer and water body contamination.
The fossil fuels are contained in small pockets within the shale bed so the process of fracturing many areas of rock formations is necessary to release all the fuel contained in the shale. Through the horizontal drilling technique, companies can frack for gas under your property from miles away and risk contaminating your private well or the region's aquifer. They are not required to seek mineral rights or compensate landowners in this scenario. Both fracking and the injection of wastewater into the ground are also proven to cause induced earthquakes, even in areas without a historical record of experiencing them.
Chemical additives are used in the drilling mud, slurries and fluids required for the fracking process. Each well produces millions of gallons of toxic fluid containing not only the added chemicals, but other naturally occurring radioactive material, liquid hydrocarbons, brine water and heavy metals. Fissures created by the fracking process can also create underground pathways for gases, chemicals and radioactive material.
Risks to Public Health
A 2011 article in the journal, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, examined the potential health impacts of oil and gas drilling in relation to the chemicals used during drilling, fracking, processing, and delivery of natural gas. The paper compiled a list of 632 chemicals (an incomplete list due to trade secrecy exemptions) identified from drilling operations throughout the U.S. Their research found that 75% of the chemicals could affect the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, and the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Approximately 40–50% could affect the brain/nervous system, immune and cardiovascular systems, and the kidneys; 37% could affect the endocrine system; and 25% could cause cancer and mutations.