Fracking is an intensive, industrial process for extracting methane gas from shale rock that lies hundreds of metres underground. The process requires a large number of drilling sites – up to 8 per square mile – and this could mean thousands of well sites in a large area. The procedure is to drill down to the shale rock at a depth of about 3,000 metres and then to drill horizontally. Water, sand and toxic chemicals are then pumped down the well under very high pressure to fracture the shale and release the gas trapped inside.
Noise and pollution
Fracking involves the use of industrial pumps at each site, which are extremely noisy. Each operating site works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, under bright lights at night, causing extreme noise, light and air pollution.
The threat to our water supply
Each fracking site creates millions of gallons of contaminated water, which is almost impossible to dispose of safely. It is either collected in giant ‘swimming pools’, allowing toxic chemicals to evaporate into our atmosphere , or pumped back down the well. Our drinking water would become contaminated if one of the wells leaks, as they are likely to do over time. It is estimated that one in four wells will leak within five years, and 50% of all wells will leak within 15 years.
There is also the issue of where the vast quantities of water required is taken from, and the knock-on effect of water scarcity for agriculture, livestock, rivers and wildlife – as well as people’s homes, of course.
A traffic nightmare
The drill sites need to be serviced by road, and each well requires up to 4,000 HGV journeys to bring in water and chemicals to supply the pumps at each drill site. This will cause major traffic problems across Ryedale, particularly on single-track roads, in villages and near schools. Local residents could see over 50 noisy trucks pass by their homes every single day. Including Sundays. For years on end.
The threat to our health
There are also serious concerns about our health. A recent official report from the USA on the fracking industry has identified at least 59 chemicals in the air or the waste water that are dangerous to human health or the environment, including arsenic, benzene, lead and radioactive materials. Many of these are known carcinogens. The report concludes:
All together, the findings from the scientific, medical, and journalistic investigations indicate that fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, and long-term economic vitality. Concerned both by the rapidly expanding evidence of harm and by the fundamental data gaps still remaining, Concerned Health Professionals considers a moratorium on unconventional oil and natural gas extraction (fracking) the only appropriate and ethical course of action while scientific and medical knowledge on the impacts of fracking continues to emerge.
Breast Cancer UK has also called for a moratorium on fracking and has expressed strong concerns about the potentially adverse health effects of increased exposure to harmful chemicals as a result of fracking.
The threat to our property
And then there’s the effect this could have on our homes. Fracking has been known to cause earthquakes in some areas – you may have heard about an earthquake near Blackpool caused by the fracking company Cuadrilla three years ago – and insurance companies have already revealed that damage to property as a result of fracking subsidence would not be compensated.
It is also likely that property would lose value, as has been the case elsewhere in the UK. In fact, the government are so worried about this that they censored an internal DEFRA report about the impact of fracking 63 times. Even the name of the author was censored!
The threat to our livelihood
The effect of fracking on the tourist industry could be devastating, resulting in business closures and heavy job losses. Who will want to visit Ryedale when it is covered in drill sites and gas pipelines, and the roads are clogged up with hundreds of HGVs?
Farmers should also be concerned, as the issues of pollution, noise and water scarcity pose a grave threat to agriculture and livestock in Ryedale. In the USA, animals and crops are dying as a result of exposure to chemicals from drilling operations.
It is unsurprising that fracking will pose a huge threat to our landscape, as you have seen from the photos of fracking in other parts of the world on this page. If fracking takes hold in the north of England, we will see literally thousands of wells stretching across our countryside. The effect this would have on our wildlife will be disastrous, not only because of the damage to the environment but also the potentially disastrous effect it would have on rivers and streams in the area.
If you’re still not sure about fracking, take a look at this film made by local sceptic Dave, who decided to investigate fracking for himself.