For every link I’ve supplied, there are a dozen more I could have included.

 I encourage you to just read through the article, and if you have a longing for proof, go back to the explorations.  Then keep digging – it’s endless.

Judith Cockman

December  17, 2013

In Alberta, Ronalie and Shawn Campbell’s previously excellent well water is now saturated with methane, ethane, propane, butane and isobutane.  The trees flanking their well – which is surrounded by over 50 energy wells within a one mile radius  – have died.  Jessica Ernst is heavy-lifting a $33 million lawsuit against Encana /Alberta Environment / and the Energy Resources Conservation Board.  Her skin burns and develops rash when she showers.  Not that she can do that anymore.  But she can light her water on fire.  Bruce Jack’s water well actually exploded.  He was hospitalized for a month with 3rd degree burns.

Flocks of canaries in our fracking mines.

Asthma.  Hair loss.   Burning eyes.  Burning skin.  Tremors.  Mouth ulcers.  Heart palpitations.  Stomach cramps.  Headaches.  Nosebleeds. Vomiting.  Projectile diarrhea.  Lesions.  Loss of balance.  Slurred speech.  Spitting blood.  Abscessed teeth.  Sick horses.  Dead goats.  Dead dogs, dead chickens, dead cats.  Dead cows.

 Symptoms of fracking contamination.  Because the chemicals that oil and gas companies use in their operations are called “proprietary”,  grasping the implications of such symptoms has been the stuff of detective novels. 

Fracking blasts methodically poisoned freshwater and slickwater at mad volumes of pressure deep into the earth, cracking open fissures to release crude oil and natural gas.  Fracturing technology isn’t new to the petroleum industry.  But this new generation of fracking  – which mines over a mile deep and then makes an elbow turn to mine over a mile horizontally – hideously pollutes water sources,  destroys the land it pummels, emits a giddy amount of methane and sucks up unconscionable quantities of fresh water.  And it’s infecting our world like a pox.

The chemicals used in the fracking process have been kept secret by the industry for years.  However, like a scientific sleuth, the Endocrine Disruption Exchange has deliberately, systematically been uncovering the boiling pot and analyzing its contents with focused concern.

Benzene, ethylbenzene, xylene, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, glycol ethers …  I could go on.  Which are hazardous if inhaled, ingested, or touch the skin.  They’re caustic, carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic.  Neat words with explosive meaning.  The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, although disabled from discovering all of the chemicals that are flavouring the soup,  reports that 93% of the ones they can confirm affect health, and 43% are endocrine disruptors.  Endocrine disruptors are man-made chemicals that mimic, or block, hormones.  Mess up the body’s normal function.  Linked to infertility, ADHD, autism, diabetes and thyroid disorders.  Fetal exposure can lead to childhood and adult cancers.

And that’s just the soil and water pollution.  Which occurs in a variety of ways, including the contamination of wells through groundwater seepage – at issue in the poisoning of the Campbell’s, Jessica Ernst and Bruce Jack water.  The oil and gas barons – and our government for that matter –  trumpet that there’s no documented proof of fracking causing this pollution.  Jessica Ernst, with 30 years of petroleum industry experience, is one of many scientists and public health officials here and abroad who begs to differ.  In fact, her $33 million lawsuit sets out to prove that EnCana is a lawbreaker and Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) are complicit in the contamination of her well water and Rosebud, Alberta’s groundwater supply.

The beguilement began in 2005.  To date, the court has ruled that the Alberta government granted complete immunity to the ERCB, absolving the regulatory board from its duty to protect landowners from the harmful effects of fracking.  To be precise, the ERCB had total immunity for “not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts.” Ms. Ernst – whom the Energy Resources Conservation Board labelled an ecoterrorist – was ordered to pay the ERCB’s costs.

Countless of the aggrieved have been silenced.  Award winning Journalist Andrew Nikiforuk states: “As somebody who has reported for 20 years on this industry in [Alberta], I can tell you I’ve met hundreds of people in this province who have signed confidentiality agreements once their water was blown, once their livestock was killed, once a member of their family were injured, once they lost most of their grass or their trees as a result of fouling events, contamination events, air pollution, you name it. It is common practice in this province to buy people out, and then buy their silence … so there is no record of how this industry quite often performs badly.”

The air pollution is equally shocking.

Gas drilling air pollution is released during all phases of operations  –  including Venting, which releases gas during well, pipeline and tank maintenance;  and Flaring, which burns gas that’s a safety hazard. Flares explode into the sky with the noise of a jet engine, deliriously emitting chemicals of as yet unknown quantity.  They run night and day.  Next to the klieg lights.  Sweet dreams.

Alberta sports 5,300 flare sites (a conservative figure I’ve drawn from Alberta Research Council’s 2000 research doc prepared for Alberta Environment – a very difficult figure to track down.  See below).  The air borne toxic compounds found in fracking communities include toluene, benzene and formaldehyde.  Moderate exposure to toluene can cause excessive sleepiness, confusion, hearing loss and brain damage.  Long-term exposure to benzene can affect the immune system and cause cancer – notably leukaemia. Formaldehyde causes severe central nervous system impairment. Chromosomal damage.  And cancer.  Anything else these toxins are famous for?  Neurological, pulmonary, gastroenterological, dermatological, immunological, hematological, endocrinological, ophthalmological, reproductive, and genetic illnesses and abnormalities.  And, perhaps needless to say, death.  Likely a very painful and egregious one.

Further, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report alarmingly high rates of methane leakage from natural gas fields.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calculates emissions of 5.6 billion pounds per year.  Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.  Making coal the winner over “natural” gas  in the greenhouse gas emission stakes.  NOAA scientists found the Weld County, Colorado gas well emissions to be equal to the carbon emissions of one to three million cars.

Which brings us to the truck traffic.  80,000 pound 18-wheelers in convoys of up to 100 tankers, kicking up the contaminated dust and spewing diesel fume.  1,800 to 2,600 truck drive-bys per well.  In an 8 well pad site, that’s …. oh, up to roughly 21,000 18-wheeler drive-bys to that particular pad.  And there can be up to 28 wells on one pad.   So long coffee chats on the front porch!  That’s if you can make it home through the traffic congestion.  And wear a mask if you’re pregnant – diesel fumes will deliver you a low birth-weight baby with lifelong health and learning issues.  Not to mention asthma.  Ozone levels around the drilling sites can be higher than the worst smog days in Los Angeles.  Kills the trees, too.  Not to mention your property value.  Oh, everything in this story kills your property value.

The degradation isn’t limited to what’s going into our land, air, water and food systems.  Fracking sucks the life out of our fresh water supplies.  As Halliburton, the sperm of the industry,  positions it on their website: “So how does this process actually work?  Well, it starts with a good bit of water and a lot of sand.”  A good bit of water.  Indeed.  According to a recently filed lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court, in three years EnCana has drawn 880 Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth of water from the Kiskatinaw River … Dawson Creek’s drinking water.  That’s only one of the 540 rivers, lakes and streams the industry is guzzling in that province.  And they’re only getting started.  Thousands more drill sites are slated for the area over the next few decades.

One frack uses 1 million to 5 million gallons of water … as much fresh ground water that services up to 55,000 Canadian households a day.  A new report by the US Environment American Research and Policy Centre found that the fracking of 82,000 wells had used enough water to sustain three billion people using 65 gallons of water a day.

What becomes of our fresh water after it’s been mixed with sand and chemicals and fiercely drummed into the earth with seismic force?  60% – 40% of what is now industrial waste lurks somewhere deep in the earth, presumably becoming absorbed into the shale.  40% – 60% of what is now industrial waste makes it back to the surface.  Each well produces millions of gallons of this wastewater – often left in open toxic ponds, evaporating.  Otherwise it’s transported out the way it came in.  Cue the 80,000 pound 18-wheelers again,  trucking the contaminated flowback out of the site.  Destroying roads, spreading toxic dust, bullying traffic, pounding the air with diesel fumes and raucous din and causing accidents.

And where do they drive it to?  An oil CEO’s swimming pool perhaps?  These guys insist their frack water is drinkable after all – ceremoniously sipping it at press conferences.  Ha ha! Convinced me!  (Well, no.  I’ve researched the horrifying illnesses that befall the wastewater truck drivers.)  They’re driving it to disposal wells.  Where they re-inject it into the ground.  Are there concerns that wastewater pits and disposal wells can fail?  Yes there are.  In British Columbia for example, surface spills and improper disposal are considered “highly feasible” due to the vast amount of toxic waste fluid (4.2 billion litres in 2009) that’s being transported and disposed of.  Oil Company Vintage Production in California was recently charged with illegally dumping fracking fluid into an open pit for 12 days.  A neighbour happened to think it looked odd.  In 2011, the 18 wheeler convoys motored their diesel ass’s from Pennsylvania to Ohio, carrying over 100 million gallons of Fracksylvania’s finest because they’d run out of room to store it in the Penn.  Share the wealth, boys!

And the discussion about earthquakes can slip in here.   They’ve increased dramatically over the past few years.  Central and eastern United States have gone from 21 quakes a year from 1967-2000,  to more than 300 earthquakes during 2010-2012.  Studies of injection sites in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado recorded hundreds of earthquakes in a year where they would have expected a dozen.  Geophysicists conclude that the cause of this trend is the disposal of the waste, more so than the fracking itself.  Permanently injecting the waste into the ground saturates the fault lines, making them less stable.  Then distant seismic pulses squeeze these fault lines, resulting in the quakes.  The U.S. Geological Survey reports that micro-earthquakes are routinely produced as part of the hydraulic fracturing process, yet, wastewater disposal by injection into deep wells induces larger earthquakes.  The largest of these was a magnitude 5.6 in central Oklahoma that destroyed 14 homes and injured two people.

And yet.  And yet – the fracking industry is Booming.  Booming because our governments are granting oil and gas companies permit after permit in province after province, state after state.  Without regulation.  Even while millions of citizens across the continent are losing their health, their water, their land, their livestock, their equanimity, and their homes, our governments are selling us out at an unholy pace.  More than 3,000 projects have been approved in Canada without any federal environmental review.  According to Canada’s auditor general, more than 800 chemicals have been used to frack open more than 200,000 oil and gas wells.  Also according to that same auditor general’s report, over the next decade, the industry will increase by more than 50 percent – and almost double over the next 20 years.  Yet, both Environment Canada and Health Canada admit that “a complete list of substances used in Canada is not known.”  Remember the 425 page C-38 omnibus bill Prime Minister Harper rammed through Parliament in 2012?  One of the myriad laws, buried in what was called the Budget Bill, exempted such projects from environmental assessment.  You will note in Part II, section 5.85 of the above report “The Minister of the Environment has discretion regarding industry reporting requirements … oil and gas exploration and drilling activities are exempt from reporting to the NPRI (National Pollutant Release Inventory).” Say what?

The industry – together with our governments – spend millions convincing us that “natural” gas is green.  And yet,  as Andrew Nikiforuk informs us, their use of energy has skyrocketed since 2002, from 2 million horsepower to 10 million.  He equates that to a pumping ability equal to eleven 740 megawatt nuclear stations.  Yes.   We’re using the power equivalent of 11 nuclear reactors to frack North America.  And here’s another bitter morsel –  55.7% of the gas produced in BC in 2012 went to Alberta to generate the tar sands industry.  We’re paying for the oil & gas industry to operate the oil & gas industry.  Voraciously consuming fossil fuel to extract fossil fuel.  Maybe the people who fight wind farms being built on their horizon should be the first to have a well pond glinting in their morning sunrise – its radioactive mist beckoning the family pets to a hideous death.

Fracking is operating with impunity in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.  It’s being shoved down the throats of the citizens of New Brunswick, where our Elsipogtog First Nations are putting their bodies in front of the RCMP cars that are protecting SWN Resources (the fifth largest producer of natural gas in the United States). The first two wells in the N.W.T just got green-lighted.  Quebec is currently maintaining a shaky moratorium, but the 5,000 square kilometres of Utica shale running along and under the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec City is gobbled up by shale gas permits granted to energy companies between 2006 – 2010.  The government of Labrador and Newfoundland  recently put applications for fracking on hold.  Nova Scotia has ramped up its precautionary measures by banning the importation of fracking water.    Nexen and IGBC hold approximately 300,000 acres of shale gas resource within the Liard, Horn River and Cordova Basins in northeast B.C. – that’s Dene and Cree territory.  Scientists with Global Forest Watch Canada analyzed 40 years of satellite images of the Peace Region of British Columbia to track the clear cuts, oil wells and fracking operations:  If laid end to end, the roads, pipelines and seismic lines in that 56,000-square-kilometre region would wrap around the planet four and a half times.  And in Ontario, oil and gas companies have surreptitiously leased huge tracts of land over the Ordovician shale formation, which covers all of Southern Ontario.  Including Toronto.  The Ontario Geological Survey – an administrative Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines – has already drilled in 11 locations, compromising the Great Lakes, Georgian Bay and local watersheds.  Swim and ski landmarks, Blue Mountain and Collingwood, have been fingered as the most appealing sites.

And for what?  David Hughes, a geoscientist who’s studied the energy resources of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager, informs us that conventional gas wells typically decline by 25% – 40% in their first year of production, but  fractured shale gas wells typically decline by 63% – 85%.  I’m sorry, but even those of us with limited math abilities can deduce that this is an equation that ends badly.

I wish I could report that I’ve actually been revealing a Margaret Atwood dystopia.  But no.  This is the reality of towns across North America where people raising a family in tranquility wake up one day and find a well across the street.  Literally.  Or in their next door neighbour’s back yard. Within days entire blocks of their neighbourhoods are ravaged.  They can’t sleep because the booming is relentless even throughout the night.  Convoys are barreling through school zones.  Children are passing out in the shower.  People are developing tumors.  Animals die.  Tap water lights on fire.  A house in Bainbridge Ohio actually got lifted right off its very self and was destroyed – while Richard and Thelma Payne were in it.  That was the end of their home of 51 years.  Calvin Tillman, the mayor of Dish, Texas abandoned his mayorship along with the home and property he and his wife had painstakingly built for their family and fled to protect their children’s lives – after the severe nosebleeds his sons were suffering began to resemble the scene of a bloody murder.  His description.  Gary Gless bought his dream home in the sublime neighbourhood of Windsor Hills, Los Angeles in 2002, anticipating his elite view of the first tee and clubhouse of the projected 18 hole golf course.  Today, he leans over his balcony into the noise and toxic, rotten egg odour of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field that has reduced his property value by 80% and turned him into an activist for a fracking ban in California.

There is no moral compass within the map of this industry’s invasion.  In Pennsylvania, more than 3,000 fracking wells were identified within two miles of 320 day care centres, 67 schools and nine hospitals.  In Texas, breast cancer rates are spiking among women living in the six counties with the most drilling, while breast cancer rates declined in the rest of Texas.  Women’s cancers found in areas of intense activity include breast, cervix, colon, ovary, rectum, uterus, and vagina.  I’d never even heard of vagina cancer till now.  Had you?  Men living in the same region are in the highest bracket for deaths from cancer of the bladder, prostate, rectum, stomach, and thyroid (based on National Cancer Institute cancer mortality maps and graphs 2011).

Alberta Premier Alison Redford appointed a new head to The Alberta Energy Regulator last year.  His name is Gerald Protti.  Gerald Protti is the founding president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.  You heard that right.  The industry’s main lobby group.  He was also vice president of EnCana.  Under Gerald Protti’s fresh thumbprint, Shawn and Ronalie Campbell’s 8 year fight for help addressing the contamination of their water  and their land has come to a sudden end.  The Regulator declared their case “closed”.  Neither has Bruce Jack’s burned body solicited answers or compensation.

Alberta also has a brand new Responsible Energy Development Act which introduced what’s become known as the “Ernst Clause” after Jessica Ernst.  The one suing the Alberta government and EnCana for $33 mill for destroying her water.  The new clause – the “Ernst Clause” – prevents landowners and citizens from suing the regulator for wrongdoing and negligence.

According to Ms. Ernst, she was used as a test tube.  As was her community.  But the ERCB’s labeling her an ecoterrorist?  Dust under her boots.  This respected biologist spends a lot of money digging up the hidden proof of culpability.  She educates and inspires communities who are suffering as she has.  Eight years into it, she’s still before the courts.  She’s appealing the dismissal of her suit against ERCB and her suit against Alberta Environment and EnCana is awaiting trial.  She was awarded the 2011 Woman of Courage Award by UNANIMA International.  She’s a hero across the the continent and across the ocean.

The United States is suffering on a grand scale from Fracking.  We can learn from their hard-won lessons before it’s beyond redemption in our own country.  Will we?

And on a parallel track, perhaps we should redirect the money raised for cancer research and put it toward lobbying for sustainable energy.


p.s.  When I read an article that disdains the voices against fracking, I investigate the writer.

Guess what his background turns out to be …



Picture these on Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence

Council of Canadians’ Emma Lui exposes Ontario Geological Survey drilling

cbc radio The Current interview with Jessica Ernst

flaring seen from space

Karla Labrecque, Peace River, Alberta

Fracking 101 (chemicals explained)

10 of the scariest chemicals used in fracking

U.S. reveals fracking chemicals

Personal stories of Albertans losing health and homes

one family’s personal story

Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. letter to Gov. Cuomo outlining the health hazards

Cost to human health from flaring

Endocrine Disruption Study

Environmental Report for Dish, Texas:

Science Lags as Health Problems Emerge

Fort Worth has been Fracked to Capacity

Fracking moves into a U.S. neighbourhood

an insightful interview

Texas Incidence Report Breast Cancer

Texas Incidence Report Breast Cancer 2

Breast Cancer Rates by State

some earthquake info

Gasland: the trailer