Do fracking operations increase the risk of polluting drinking water? In the United States, fracking is a controlled activity, and if regulators struggle to control this can you imagine what will happen when fracking reaches the South African shores?
The South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, stated that fracking is a controlled activity, and a notice had been gazetted. It would appear that the government is embarking on fracking operations in the Karoo and elsewhere. The dangers and implications of what can happen remain a widespread problem.
South Africa had not made significant advances around the fracking business, and no exploration permits have been issued. The Royal Dutch Shell Company has expressed an interest. The fracking operation would stimulate the economy and create jobs for many of the unemployed in this country.
Environmentalists are against this activity and raising the alarm to the dangers of fracking. They argue that the water supplies will be polluted by fracking. During fracking, pressurized water, chemicals and sand will be pumped underground to release gas trapped in shale formations. The Karoo is a semiarid area and water is scarce.
Conservationists have a particular interest in the densely populated area of the Karoo, well known for its rocky surroundings and source of the mountain zebra and riverine rabbit, which have been classed as a rare animal species.
With reference to the 2007 deadly chemical leak in Kentucky at an gas extraction process, there was ample evidence suggesting that toxic fracking fluids were polluting the drinking water and having devastating effects on the aquatic systems and the water resource.
This issue was justified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). During the development of several natural gas wells in Kentucky, fluids from the drilling and fracking exercises overflowed into a small creek. This discharge almost killed all the aquatic wildlife, including fish, in about a two mile long stretch of the river.
Investigators studying the effects of the disaster could not find any living fish in the contaminated part of the stream, and this demonstrates that entire populations could be at risk with even small liquid spills. They realized the pH balance had dropped because of the hydrochloric acid and detected a significant increase in dissolved metals. It was noted that healthy fish moved in the infected area developed abrasions.
The subcontracting company liable for the spillage accepted blame for violating the Clean Water and the Endangered Species Acts. They received a hefty fine.
This reasonable evidence will not stop the South African Government from embarking on fracking operations. The Fracking companies will comment and say that is an isolated incident and perhaps a minor one that modern technology will control in the future.
Fracking can cause serious problems. A serious waste disposal problem could trigger earthquakes if pumped into the ground. Or on the other hand, dumped into the environment and kill off flora and fauna.
Fracking in South Africa will go ahead as planned, once the government has decided to push forward there will be no stopping the dangerous activity of fracking that could destroy our people. With the strict US policies enforced, can South Africa police such fracking policies with the same concern as a first world country?
Written by Laura Oneale