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North Dakota's murky situation: 1-in-3 fracking wells in the state has had a leak... 9,700 wells in total

Fracking wells

(NaturalNews) The environmental damage and subsequent health risks caused by the fracking industry are far greater than previously thought, according to a recent Duke University study that examined fracking spills in North Dakota.

In North Dakota, around 9,700 oil and gas wells have been drilled in the past decade, and spills have been reported at more than one of every three drilling sites.

The Duke research team found that large amounts of radioactive materials, heavy metals and other toxins have contaminated widespread areas of the state.

From Eco Watch:

"Some rivers and streams in North Dakota now carry levels of radioactive and toxic materials higher than federal drinking water standards as a result of wastewater spills, the scientists found after testing near spills. Many cities and towns draw their drinking water from rivers and streams, though federal law generally requires drinking water to be treated before it reaches peoples' homes and the scientists did not test tap water as part of their research.

"High levels of lead—the same heavy metal that infamously contaminated water in Flint, Michigan—as well as the radioactive element radium, were discovered near spill sites. One substance, selenium, was found in the state's waters at levels as high as 35 times the federal thresholds set to protect fish, mussels and other wildlife, including those that people eat."

Fracking waste toxins will be around for 'millennia'

Nearly 4,000 oil and gas wastewater spills in North Dakota have dumped millions of gallons of poisonous sludge into the soil and water. This wastewater contains toxins that will remain for "millennia," unless "unprecedented" cleanup efforts are made.

Nancy Lauer, lead author of the study, said:

"Unlike spilled oil, which starts to break down in soil, these spilled brines consist of inorganic chemicals, metals and salts that are resistant to biodegradation. They don't go away; they stay. This has created a legacy of radioactivity at spill sites."

Radium 226, one of the radioactive contaminants found in the spill sites, has a half-life of 1,600 years.

Lack of standards and oversight

Oversight of the fracking industry is inadequate, partly due to federal laws that exempt fracking waste from its jurisdiction:

"The sheer volume of waste generated by the industry—particularly from the type of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing used to tap shale oil and gas—has often overwhelmed state regulators, especially because federal laws leave the waste exempt from hazardous waste handling laws, no matter how toxic or dangerous it might be, under an exception for the industry carved out in the 1980's."

North Dakota's state inspectors are short-handed – each inspector is personally responsible for 500 wells – and the picture is similar in other states.

The extent of fracking operations in the United States is enormous. From the U.S Department of Energy:

"More than 4 million oil and gas related wells have been drilled in the United States since development of these energy resources began nearly 150 years ago. At least 2 million of these have been hydraulically fracture-treated, and up to 95 percent of new wells drilled today are hydraulically fractured, accounting for more than 43 percent of total U.S. oil production and 67 percent of natural gas production."

The bottom line is that the fracking boom happened so quickly, and with so little regulation, that we are only beginning to understand the potential health and environmental costs. The fracking industry pulled a fast one on the American people, and it appears that we will be paying the price for centuries to come.







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