We took a walk this morning. The sky was overcast and the river seemed moody … cold, dark, and quiet even where it was moving quickly. Living the way we do has made us come to look at and to appreciate water in ways which we used not to. Water which supports our livestock is drawn from a drilled well near the barns; that which we drink flows from a surface spring which emerges just outside the house. Our supply of domestic water fluctuates with the mostly seasonal vagaries of the surrounding water-table, one of many constant preoccupations. Although we have always had water, there have been times when its flow rate has been very low. Just two summers ago we needed to dramatically limit consumption, and showers and laundry were very carefully scheduled. Luckily there have also been times when we have not had to worry about such limitations.
We recently commented on the local development of Marcellus shale gas deposits. One of the techniques used by this industry to extract previously untapped reservoirs is called hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Fracking involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals at high pressure into rock formations deep within the earth; this fractures and expands existing fissures in the rock and allows natural gas to rise to the surface. Our fear is for the potential for methane gas and, more insidiously, dangerous chemicals to migrate along these fissures and to pollute our water. Many of the chemicals used by the fracking industry are known to be toxic to humans and other animals, and several are known carcinogens. Potentially toxic substances include petroleum distillates such as kerosene and diesel fuel (which contain benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and naphthalene); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide.
Our concern for water is genuine. It is not hyperbole to argue that without it … this place ceases to exist.