HVHF (high volume hydraulic fracturing), commonly known as “fracking,” is a process used in the oil and gas industry to release these products from underground by injecting water and chemicals into rock formations. Seen as an untapped source of energy – and profits – fracking operations are springing up across the country, often to the dismay of public health officials and residents experiencing health problems that appear to be related to local contamination of air and groundwater.
If you live or work in Maryland and suspect that fracking has caused contamination of your drinking or other usable water, or is responsible for respiratory illnesses, Steven H. Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, can help you identify and hold at-fault the oil or gas developer responsible for any negligence that may have caused the contamination. Located in Baltimore but serving all of Maryland and the District of Columbia, Steve will listen carefully to your concerns and diligently pursue fair compensation for your injuries. To find out more about your legal rights if your family has been harmed by a fracking outfit, call (410) 625-4878 toll free today.
Dangerous chemicals used in fracking
During the fracking process, water mixed with sand and chemicals is injected at high pressure into rock formations deep underground. Each fracking well uses 80-140 tons of chemicals. This fractures the rock where gas, oil and other resources are trapped, allowing efficient mass extraction. Although most of these chemicals are harmless, some are carcinogenic and can harm animals and people at high doses. Other toxic substances, like radioactive material and poisonous minerals, can also be contained in fracturing fluid.
Some of the chemicals used in fracking operations are:
- Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene, which are known to cause low birth weight, decreased head size and spina bifida, breast cancer and spontaneous abortions.
- Arsenic, which can cause stomach pain, nausea, partial paralysis and blindness
- Manganese, causing damage to the nervous system
- Acrylonitrile, a chemical found to cause brain and stomach cancer in animals
- Nitrogen oxides and ozone, which can cause developmental disabilities in children.
Reported health issues near fracking sites
People who live near fracking sites are reporting a wide variety of illnesses believed to be due to the toxic chemicals involved in hydraulic fracturing. These chemicals have been found in the air, surface water and groundwater. Commonly reported symptoms of residents near HVHF natural gas developments include skin rash or irritation, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, breathing difficulties or cough, nosebleeds, anxiety/stress, headache, dizziness, eye irritation, and throat irritation. Even their farm animals have been harmed in fracking accidents which released toxic substances.
Contamination of air and water
Because fracking requires millions of gallons of water, fracking sites are usually established close to aquifers and other water sources. This poses a risk to local communities due to the possible contamination of groundwater by fracturing fluids and the chemicals contained in it. If the well becomes cracked by a shift within the earth or by temperature changes, methane gas and toxic chemicals can leach out into the groundwater.
Fracking operations also produce wastewater containing metals, brine and radionuclides. This toxic waste, known as “flowback,” is returned to the surface and stored for a period of time in open pits until it can be treated and disposed of. There have been instances where the lining of the pit was torn or damaged, allowing the contaminated waste to spill into surface water.
These ponds and condensate tanks used for fracking waste also release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, creating smog that can travel up to 250 miles away from the production site.
Can fracking be accomplished safely?
In recent years, fracking has incited political controversy, nationwide debates and studies concerning its environmental impacts by both energy companies and environmental advocacy groups. Energy companies insist that fracking does not cause significant water contamination, but research by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other groups says otherwise.
In December of 2014, New York State announced a complete ban on fracking because of the evidence that it might be a danger to public health. They concluded, “Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF and whether the risks can be adequately managed, HVHF should not proceed in New York State.”
Maryland has also invested time and money in studying the potential dangers of fracking and how they might adequately be addressed through stringent regulations. Perhaps the most frightful aspect of fracking is that we do not know what the long-term health and environmental impacts will be. It is still a relatively new process.
Fracking in Maryland
The Marcellus Shale formation is the largest source of natural gas in the United States. Some of it runs along the western panhandle of Maryland. Fracking operations there could impact the Potomac River, Youghiogheny River and Deep Creek Lake.
There have been many “fraccidents” in neighboring Pennsylvania, some not too far from the Maryland border, which should be warnings of the tragic consequences we could see if and when the fracking industry picks up in Maryland. After fracking operations began on a farm near Clearville, PA, the owner’s livestock mysteriously began having motor-skill breakdowns followed by sudden death. A veterinarian said the deaths may have been caused by arsenic, high levels of which were found in water on the farmer’s property. In another nearby incident, a company was boring a path for a pipeline 13 feet under a stream, wetland and road in Lycoming County, PA, when around 5,000 gallons of synthetic drilling mud erupted to the surface, spilling into the wetland and reaching the stream.
Change Starts with You
Energy companies will keep on fracking relentlessly and without consideration unless public opinion turns against them and the government is left with no choice but to start enforcing tougher regulations. If you believe your health has been affected due to fracking water or air contamination, you should bring your case forward to let the people know that it is possible to hold energy companies responsible for the damages they inflict upon the environment and the lives of others.
Medical care for the extremely serious and debilitating illnesses linked to fracking can be lengthy and very expensive. Some families where there have been fraccidents have been forced to move away from the contaminated area, giving up the equity they had in their homes and land.
Baltimore-based Steven H. Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, can help you create a solid foundation for a toxic tort lawsuit against a company whose negligence poisoned your air or water. His thorough understanding of personal injury law can identify all sources of compensation for your injury and help your family recover from an unjust situation. Call (410) 625-4878 toll free or use the convenient on-line inquiry form to arrange for a free consultation.