Luckily, we do not drill for gas in DC. But in communities where gas is drilled through a process called “hydraulic fracturing,” or fracking, it contaminates groundwater and emits noxious fumes into the air.
Fracking requires huge quantities of water, which is mixed with toxic chemicals and pumped into the ground to crack open layers of rock and release gas. Dirty energy companies involved in fracking refuse to divulge what chemicals they mix into their toxic solvent, under the guise of trade secret rules. When the frack water comes back to the surface it may also carry toxic chemicals and radioactive Barium, which often contaminate underground water supplies, rivers and streams.
Air and water contaminants released from fracking include:
- Benzene, a known carcinogen linked to leukemia, anemia, reproductive and developmental disorders;
- Toluene, which can affect the nervous system, cause irritation of the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, and result in birth defects;
- Xylenes, which may cause irritation of the nose and throat, nausea, vomiting, gastric irritation, and neurological effects;
- Nitrogen oxides, which causes respiratory inflammation and aggravate asthma; and
- Methane, ethane and propane, which can cause rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, fatigue, vomiting, convulsions, and at greater exposure, coma and death.
The Potomac River supplies DC's drinking water. Gas is fracked in parts of the Potomac watershed.