NTN calls for fracking ban
The National Toxics Network, an independent NGO involved in public education and research, has called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing chemicals.
The NTN has released a briefing paper titled Hydraulic Fracturing in Coal Seam Gas Mining: The Risks to Our Health, Communities, Environment and Climate.
Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith has a PhD in law and specialises in chemical management and was one of the two authors of the paper.
“I certainly think anyone living in the vicinity of (coal seam gas) projects should be concerned, as should all Australians, because this is a real threat to our water security, and our water security should be paramount,” Dr Lloyd-Smith said. “Of the 23 most commonly identified fracking chemicals 21 have not been assessed by our chemical regulator, the National Industrial Chemical Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS).
“21 had not been assessed at all, two had been looked at for a totally different use. The chemicals being used have not been assessed from a health or environmental perspective.”
Dr Lloyd-Smith said Australia was “not on the ball” when it came to chemical regulation.
“This is of extreme concern. With fracking we are talking about quantities of 18,000kg of chemical additives per well. Not all of that is got back out. With CSG, what we see is about 40% remains within the structure; that’s 7500kg remaining in the earth after fracking each well.
“Risk assessments for specific CSG projects in Queensland lacked basic information on the chemicals. The ones we were able to identify concerned us because of their significant potential to cause damage to the environment and human health.
“Some were linked with cancer and birth defects, while others damaged the hormone system of living things and affected aquatic species at very low levels. Fracking chemicals are complex mixtures of different chemicals which increases their risks.
“They are being used in very large volumes and unknown concentrations for purposes they were never intended for. Despite industry claims that fracking chemicals are ‘only used in small quantities’ and are all ‘food grade chemicals used in household chemicals’, NTN has discovered that hazardous chemicals such as ethylene glycol, formamide, naphthalene, ethoxylated nonylphenol and sodium persulfate are commonly used in fracking mixtures.”
Mining companies have consistently said that their wells do not pollute aquifers.
“I’m not 100% sure what they mean by that, once a fracture has opened cleats, then cracks release gas. Then they pump chemicals into those cracks, and as we’ve seen in the past, we see those chemicals escape through those cracks going further and entering water.
“If a fracturing process has taken place, it’s near impossible to seal a coal seam gas seam.”
NTN called for a moratorium on the use of all hydraulic fracturing chemicals.
“That moratorium is essential until there has been a full environmental, health and full lifecycle analysis on the whole process. Until that happens I cannot see how they can go ahead and develop uses for these chemicals and we should not be going ahead with any hydraulic fracturing.”
Dr Lloyd-Smith said there were issues about CSG, besides fracking.
“There has not been any overall assessment of this as an energy source being anywhere near greenhouse neutral. A recent Cornell University report clearly concluded the technique was neither green nor climate friendly and that it did not make sense looking at it as an alternate energy source,” she said.
The briefing paper can be found http://ntn.org.
Briefing-Paper-2011.pdf on NTN’s website.