Fracking and Michigan's water supply

Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014
Fracking and Michigan
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - New rules approved in Lansing a few weeks ago are designed to soothe the concerns of people worried about the effects that fracking for oil and gas will have on our environment.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's nice to have more information about what is being done in our state and elsewhere, but it doesn't make the effect on the environment any less scary.

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In fact...the new rules don't do a whole lot more than confirm what critics already thought was happening.

Just to get it out of the way, and most of you already know this: fracking is short for "hydraulic fracturing." It's the process of extracting oil and gas from miles deep in the earth by injecting a high-pressure mix of water and chemicals to fracture the rock and free it up.

It sounds ho-hum, but it's a pretty ruthless undertaking.

It takes unbelievable amounts of fresh water to get the job done. Water that can never be used again for human consumption.

Here's an example: a well drilled in Kalkaska County a year-and-a-half ago used 21 million gallons of it. When it comes time to extend the well, they'll use even more.

21 million gallons! One well.

And while Pennsylvania has pretty much been the poster state for the fracking industry, Michigan is now in the cross hairs.

And why not? We're a peninsula. We've got water!

In Barry County three years ago, oil companies signed leases for 81 wells.

Within a year that number had doubled.

There are a number of them scheduled to go in Ionia County.

According to the Detroit Free Press, there are tens of thousands of property owners across the state who have signed leases.

And for every well drilled, millions upon millions of gallons of fresh water used, contaminated, and pumped underground for safe keeping.

One fracking critic, Joe Curry, a water driller from Holly, told the Free Press that the fracking process risks contaminating underground water sources, creates air pollution from the chemicals used,  and converts almost incomprehensible amounts of fresh water into toxic waste.

How much water? Well, from January of 2011 to August of 2012--a 20-month stretch--the United States lost 66 billion gallons of water to frack 35,000 wells.

That's enough to provide all the water needed annually for 40 to 80 cities with populations of 50-thousand people.

Much of it in already water-stressed areas--and none of it ever to be used by a human being again.

And we're just getting started.

Guess who uses more water: Farmers? Or frackers? And we're just getting started.

I know we need to assert oil independence. We can't forever rely on oil from politically unstable regions of the world.

I know we have to get to work and take our vacations and wait for deliveries by planes, trucks, and automobiles.

I also know that the oil and gas industry would love to keep things just the way they are. They're making tons of money. And they have tons of clout in every legislative chamber in the country.

But we have simply got to step up our research in how to extract more usable power from reusable sources like the sun, and wind, and waves, and heat from the core of the earth.

If we don't, there will come a time when the lines from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner will take on a whole new meaning: "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on June 29, 2015 17:11 GMT

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