April 2, 2016
One of the major concerns around fracking is the potential for the process to contaminate groundwater. Contamination can happen at many stages in the process and while best practice can reduce the risk of well failure, accidental spillage or negligence, it cannot eliminate the risk. Wells have failed and contamination has occurred in the United States rendering some drinking water sources unusable.
The cement casings used to line the bore holes that carry gas and contaminated water in and out of the well can corrode or fail resulting in the migration of contaminated waste water and or methane gas into aquifers.
Gas and other substances can also migrate from the fractures underground and cause water sources to bubble with methane as we have seen in Queensland with the Condamine River, now described by locals as looking like “lemonade.”
Spillage of contaminated waste water and fracking fluid can happen at multiple stages in the fracking process including at the transport phase. Thousands of truck movements are required for each frack at each well to bring water, chemicals and waste in and out of the area. A single spill can contaminate surface water for decades.
The waste water ponds are lined with plastic and there are already cases documented in Australia where toxic fluid has leached from these ponds. The waste water ponds are also a risk in the case of a flood when the ponds could overflow and contaminate surface water.
In 2014 gas giant AGL’s pilot coal seam gas well at Gloucester in northern NSW was closed after banned chemicals were found in water samples.
With tens of thousands of frack wells expected to dot the WA landscape in the next few decades there is an increased chance of a catastrophic failure and an irreversible contamination of our groundwater resources.