Hydrolic fracturing (fracking) is a technique used to extract natural gas in which water is mixed with sand and chemicals. This mixture is forced into the ground to create fractures in the rock structure through which fluids such as natural gas, oil, and groundwater may migrate to the well. Then the desired fluids, and lots of excess water, can be pumped back to the surface. While this process can yield a lot of natural gas or crude oil, there are also many side effects. Hydrofracking uses a lot of water; it may take several million gallons of water to properly frack a single well. Besides water a great deal of other chemicals are added to make the whole process work better. What chemicals are used is a closely guarded, company secret, and thanks to industry lobbying efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled in 2005 that companies do not have to disclose their frack mixtures. Much of the water used in hydrofracking eventually comes back to the surface contaminated with hydrocarbons, sand, radon, other radiated elements, and these secret chemicals. Despite the best efforts of the fracking industry there have been too many incidences of ground, water and air pollution to ignore.
Scores of adverse affects have been documented. Duke University has found 85% of the wells within areas fracked in Pennsylvania contain elevated levels methane in the well water. Some as high as 17 times the normal level. Further in North Dakota, a federal study found high levels of fracking chemicals in the groundwater. Many other environmental problems have been noted. Even the best efforts of the industry have been unable to develop adequate methods to mitigate these problems.
This process has yet to come to New York State and it raise questions for all municipalities, including Rochester. It is important that cities take actions to protect themselves and their water supply and this could not be clearer than the case of Rochester. In Rochester, our water comes from two lakes south of the city. While the city still owns the lakes, it recently sold the watershed around them to the State. The protection of these lakes is of vital concern for the people of Rochester and it is important to send the State a clear message that these lakes need to be protected. This message will not be clear without a ban of fracking in Rochester.
This issue has been very divisive in New York and the State is likely to grant local control therefore, a total ban will protect the city. These lakes lie in other municipalities who may not take measures to prevent fracking; thus our ban sends an important message. The language can not be too strong as water is one of our most valuable resources and we can not protect our supply enough.