A report showed that 464,231 gallons of fracking fluid containing the toxic chemical 2-BE were injected into West Virginia gas wells and 747,416 gallons of 2-BE bearing fluids were employed in Pennsylvania. This is the same chemical that showed up in contaminated well water in Pavillion, Wyo. and is likely the cause of the adrenal tumor that Laura Amos of Garfield County, Colo. developed after her well water was contaminated by Encana drilling activity.
You might feel like you are in Toxicology class as you review the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce’s recently released report which reveals information regarding chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The information for the report was collected by the Committee from 14 oil and gas service companies which submitted requested data on fracking products used between 2005 and 2009. This is a very lay-friendly report with only 12 pages of text and tables. The remaining 18 pages are lists of chemicals. However, for those who just want the highlights, I’ve tried to pick out them out for this post.
“Between 2005 and 2009, the oil and gas service companies used hydraulic fracturing products containing 29 chemicals that are (1) known or possible human carcinogens, (2) regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health, or (3) listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.” Of the 29 chemicals, 13 are classified as carcinogens, 8 are Safe Drinking Water Act regulated chemicals, and 24 are hazardous air pollutants. Many of the chemicals fall into more than one category. (See chart on page 8 of report.)
Methanol, a toxic air pollutant, was the most widely used chemical during the time period studied, as measured by the number of compounds containing the chemical. Other hazardous air pollutants included hydrogen fluoride (systemic poison, potentially fatal), lead (reproductive disorders, high blood pressure, nervous system disease, especially among children), hydrogen chloride and ethylene glycol.
The chemical called 2-BE (shorthand for 2-butoxyethanol) is another common toxic constituent. It is used as a foaming agent or surfactant. ”According to EPA scientists, 2-BE is easily absorbed and rapidly distributed in humans following inhalation, ingestion, or dermal exposure. Studies have shown that exposure to 2-BE can cause hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and damage to the spleen, liver, and bone marrow.” And rare adrenal tumors. Texas topped the list of states with 12 million gallons of fluid containing 2-BE injected into the ground. As noted above, WV and PA were below 1 million.
Among the list of carcinogens used are formaldehyde (also a hazardous air pollutant), diesel, naphthalene and chemicals in the BTEX compound group (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene). ”The BTEX compounds appeared in 60 hydraulic fracturing products used in the 5-year period and were used in 11.4 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids.” Most of those tainted fluids, 9.5 million gallons of the 11.4 million, were used in Texas. Less than 100,000 gallons were used in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“In addition, the hydraulic fracturing companies injected more than 30 million gallons of diesel fuel or fracturing fluids containing diesel fuel in wells in 19 states.” In a 2004 report, the EPA stated that the use of diesel fuel in fracturing fluids poses the greatest threat to underground sources of drinking water.
“Many chemical components of hydraulic fracturing fluids used by the companies were listed on the MSDSs as “proprietary” or “trade secret.” The hydraulic fracturing companies used 93.6 million gallons of 279 products containing at least one proprietary component between 2005 and 2009. …In these cases, it appears that the companies are injecting fluids containing unknown chemicals about which they may have limited understanding of the potential risks posed to human health and the environment.”
The report was prepared under the leadership of US House Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Dianna DeGuette (D-CO).