News Feature | November 7, 2014

What Is The Real Impact Of Fracking On The Ocean?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

The message of a new study is that the energy industry poses a significant threat to California's marine life.

"Fracking chemicals are being dumped into California’s coastal waters," the study said.

Researchers with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, released a study that outlines "the serious dangers posed by toxic chemicals," according to a release from the group.

"Oil platforms off California’s coast are permitted to dump 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including fracking chemicals, into the ocean each year," the release said.

What the companies are doing is not illegal. But the researchers still saw problems with such activity.

"The federal government has given oil companies permission to dump more than 9 billion gallons of wastewater a year into the ocean off California’s coast. These coastal waters provide key habitat for whales, sea otters, sea turtles and more than 500 fish species," the study said.

The study found other wastewater disposal methods to be problematic, as well.

"When wastewater is not dumped into the ocean, it is reinjected into the seafloor or transported for onshore underground injection. Even this disposal method can result in leaks," the report said.

For instance, almost a third of Gulf of Mexico offshore oil wells underwent damage to casing within the first five years of drilling, the study said. Damage to well casing can lead to ground and surface water contamination.

Some observers say that fracking is exacerbating the struggle California faces during its historic drought. A Mother Jones columnist recently wrote: "You thought California's drought couldn't get any worse? Enter fracking."

The column continued, sarcastically: "I have a great idea. Let's take one of the globe's most important agricultural regions, one with severe water constraints and a fast-dropping water table. And let's set up shop there with a highly water-intensive form of fossil fuel extraction, one that throws off copious amounts of toxic wastewater. Nothing could possibly go wrong ... right?"

Energy From Shale, a pro-fracking industry group, says groundwater is safe during the fracking process.

"Each well has layers of cement and steel casing to prevent groundwater leaks. Most wells are monitored with state of the art equipment," the group said.

For more oil and gas news, check out Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center.