Perhaps you’ve heard of fracking and dismissed it as something that occurs in rural areas far away – I know I did. There is a chance, however, that its effects could now be coming to a faucet near you.
It turns out that there is a huge deposit of natural gas inside something called the Marcellus Shale. Because the natural gas it holds is relatively easy to get to and the shale is located close to population centers along the East Coast, drilling has already begun in places like Pennsylvania and West Virginia. That same shale also extends a little bit into the very eastern portion of Virginia, into land that is currently occupied by the George Washington National Forest.
The Forest Service, which oversees the G.W. National Forest, periodically drafts plans on what to do with their lands. In 2011, they presented a draft plan for the G.W. National Forest that more or less banned fracking. Proponents of fracking flipped out, and the Forest Service has agreed to look over their plans again.
The problem, other than allowing a company to drill in an otherwise pristine National Forest, is that the river that runs through the G.W. National Forest is a major contributor to the Potomac. Washington D.C., as well as many of its suburbs, gets its water directly from sources, then, that could be majorly affected by G.W. National Forest fracking.
The process of fracking involves shoving massive amounts of water and chemicals into the underground shale in order to push the goodies out – in this case, natural gas. While companies say the process is more or less safe, they don’t have to disclose what sorts of chemicals they’re shoving into the ground because it’s deemed a trade secret.
While I am no opponent of big industry, and I enjoy the benefits of cheap natural gas, I am naturally dubious of anybody who stands to make a large profit – especially when it could affect my drinking water. I think I’d prefer to pay more for my energy and drink cheaper, higher-quality water.
Want to see the worst-case scenario of what fracking might do? Check out this video of a woman lighting water coming from her kitchen sink on fire: