The 350-million-year-old Marcellus Shale Formation covers 54,000 mi. in West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, and is described by many as the third largest natural gas reserve in the world. Approximately 9% of the Marcellus shale lies in the upper third of the Delaware Basin in a watershed that supplies drinking water to 16 million people (5% of the U.S. population) in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, including New York City and Philadelphia. Almost ¾ of the Marcellus shale lies in New York and Pennsylvania. (http://www.wra.udel.edu/marcellus-shale/) The river is geologically old and the river has always been generous.
Native Americans found the animals and plants they needed by following the water. The growth of every major city and economy in our world followed the water, whether people drank it or traveled on it. To obtain the greatest reward for skillful play, athletes are always advised to “follow the money”. Unfortunately, this piece is being written because of the tendency of politics and decision makers to “follow the money”. We are in a time, right now, where following the gas and oil money has the potential for disaster, while following the water might save us.
“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall; it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” (The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood, Cannongate, 2005)
Rock also flows. Seams and folds lie deep, enclosing countless years of sinking and upheaval. It is the combination of geology and aging biology that both provides and hides gas and oil. Water, and every liquid under the world, flows along seams in the rock, aided by gravity and enclosed until opened by pressure or drilling. Some water filters down into soil and subsoil, aided by floods and precipitation. Shallow wells tap this water, which like rock and everything else, flows downstream.
If you have lived “downstream” from an old gas station, you have heard how easily well water is contaminated by hydrocarbons and petroleum residue. If you lived “downstream” from a cattle-feeding operation, you have heard about wells contaminated by bacteria and methane. At one time, the Delaware was horribly polluted by factory runoff of all kinds, with the added factor of runoff from agricultural poisons and fertilizer. EPA alerts and well-designed city water, sewage and cleanup systems have all served to protect our wells and water. But as we have learned, even the most efficient systems can be bollixed by contamination run-off into the water supply. Remember Charleston, a city that went days without water? Fracking chemical disaster could easily occur in Scranton, Trenton, New Hope, and Philadelphia, just to mention a few cities along the Delaware that depend on water from the river. To date, pollution reports have been near wellheads, but look up “fracking” problems and get the shivers. No matter how careful the gas companies say they are, fracking changes the drainage, composition, and the flow of underground water. “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. ” (Thomas Fuller c. 1650, Goodreads topical quotes)
Is fracking political? Absolutely. Locally, we are living under a time-sensitive fracking moratorium. What happens next to our ground and water depends totally on our political will. The Republican candidates and incumbents in Bucks County did not respond to three questions on this topic mailed to each. The Intelligencer reported that Rep. Fitzpatrick recently voted to prohibit federal regulation on federal or tribal lands re fracking, and to expedite the approval of applications for export of liquefied natural gas. His position is clearly industry related. Incumbent Republicans in Harrisburg inflicted the awful Act 13 on all of us, a bill that took away constitutional protections, offered nothing for remediation or recovery and laid on an extraction tax that was not even close to the national AVERAGE for such fees. Our best bet is to turn out the status quo and look at the positions of candidates who have responded to all questions re the fracking industry and our issues.