What will we do with all the fracking water?

If the way we treat the dirty water we have is any indication, B.C. is in for a lot grief. The amount of contaminated water is about to increase dramatically because of the government’s dream to frack us into prosperity: export liquid natural gas by hydraulic fracturing.

Fracking_Graphic_t670

The shoddy way we treat existing toxic water stored in 110 disposal wells is a deplorable.

How bad? That’s what the Fort Nelson First Nation wanted to find out since a lot of drilling will take place in their back yard. They asked the University of Victoria to investigate. Their report highlights one disposal well in particular, #2240.

An unimaginably huge amount of toxic water has been stored in #2240; enough to fill 16,693 Olympic swimming pools, that is, 41 billion litres. Or put another way, 24 times the volume of the World Trade Centers in New York. So, how is disposal well #2240 holding up after 46 years, you might wonder. Who knows?

The water going into the well has not been tested for chemical content. Water in the surrounding area has not been tested for leakage –it’s a black hole.

Reporter for the Globe and Mail, Mark Hume, says of the report: “And it presents some troubling data – not the least of which concerns the amount of wastewater pumped into the ground at disposal well #2240.”

“Notably, there are no requirements for operators to conduct baseline testing of water systems surrounding the well, or conduct ongoing monitoring of these water systems. There are also no requirements to monitor or disclose the quality or characteristics of the fluid being disposed of in the well.”

What will become of all the new industrial waste water? It doesn’t look good.

The chemical-laced water is bad enough before it goes down the fracking hole and worse when it comes up. Drilling companies are secretive about the chemicals they put in the water but there are hundreds of possibilities according to the Chemical Disclosure registry in the U.S.

Some of those possible chemicals include Hydrochloric acid to help open fractures where the gas is hidden, antibacterials like Gutaraldehyde, gelling agents such as Guar gum to suspend added sand, yet more chemicals to break down the gelling agents.

A lot of this secret chemical cocktail stays down the hole but 20 to 50 per cent comes back up. This mess is euphemistically called “flowback water” which continues for 10 to 14 days until the gas starts to flow.

While the water going down is toxic for decades, it’s lethal for centuries when it comes back up. The UVic report adds that flowback contains “very old water also present in the target zone and in bedrock formations above or below it that may be highly saline and contain naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM).

It hardly inspires confidence, does it? Premier Christy Clark’s headlong rush to frack the heck out the province already faces logistical and market hurdles. The legacy of billions of litres of toxic water is yet another dark cloud about to rain on her parade.

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