A New Orleans energy company wants to drill a 13,000-foot well in search of oil and gas on a tract of land outside of Abita Springs, LA. Unfortunately, the town of Abita, and her water supply, happen to be above the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale Ridge. What’s that? Oh, it’s an ancient sedimentary rock formation containing an estimated 7 Billion barrels worth of fossil fuel. The down side is, to get to it, energy companies use a fairly nasty process called hydraulic fracturing , or “fracking,” to extract oil and gas.
The oil company would like to drill directly through the Southern Hills Aquifer system that supplies St. Tammany and many other parishes with their only source of drinking water. A toxic solution of water, chemicals and sand would be pumped into the well, and the tremendous pressure would create cracks, or fractures, in the shale. When the solution is pulled out of the well, the sand would remain in the cracks and keep them open, allowing oil and gas to flow into the well for extraction.
The process calls for the well to be encased in concrete and several layers of hardened steel pipe to ensure that it remains sealed. But if something goes wrong, as it did with the Horizon Deepwater well, the Southern Hills Aquifer system, which extends from St. Tammany to beyond Baton Rouge and well into Mississippi and supplies water to many parishes and counties, could be contaminated. Back topside, there will be a lot of nasty chemicals from fracking waste water that could contaminate the land, air and water.
Is it worth the risk?” If it fails for any reason, where is the oil, methane and waste water contaminated by toxic heavy metals and radiation going to go? What happens when casings fail?
Researchers representing the Environmental Protection Agency are conducting a three-year case study of the effects on drinking water from hydraulic fracturing in Texas, Colorado, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. That report is due out in December, 2014. Can we hold out that long to get the facts? Only time will tell.