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A Town Called Athens: Athens area must fight against fracking

I have not yet taken up a major cause in any of my columns, but I decided it was time to take a stand as the quarter is winding down on an issue that could soon affect all of our daily lives.

Hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking,” as it is more commonly referred to — is the drilling process through which natural gas is extracted from the earth. It is a lengthy, massive, resource-intensive process that is considered the best way of gaining access to underground gas deposits.

For those of you that have seen the documentary Gasland, you understand how horrific and widespread this problem is.

According to Gasland, fracking requires between 1 million and 8 million gallons of water, and a well can be fracked up to 18 times. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are 493,100 natural gas wells in the U.S.

Using the 1-million-gallons-of-water-per-well estimate, that means almost 9 trillion gallons of water were used to create these wells — and that’s a conservative number.

There are currently water shortages all over the world, and using trillions of gallons of water to frack does not seem like the best use of resources. There is an argument to be made for finding ways to rely less on foreign oil and natural gas. However, it is not worth doing if it greatly depletes our water supply.

And the water being pumped into the wells is not the only water being affected.

When water is pumped into fracking wells, it is mixed with almost 600 chemicals. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens and other extremely dangerous chemicals. In fact, most wells are labeled with signs saying they contain chemicals that have been rated a “4,” the most dangerous chemical rating. 

When these millions of gallons of water and other less healthy things go down into the ground, only about half of them are pumped back out. So what happens to the other millions of gallons? They stay in the earth.

And while in the earth, what do these chemicals do? They seep directly into the water table from which many Americans pump their water.

Before fracking came to their areas, many Americans who had water wells drank their water straight from the pump. That is no longer an option, and even advanced filtration systems are not capable of filtering the dangerous chemicals out of the water.

In areas that have been fracked, water tables have been found to contain high levels of methane, propane and benzene, among other things.

Remember, these measurements have been taken at places where the water table was fine for decades, prior to fracking taking place in these locations.

So how bad does the tap water in these homes become? Well, it can be lit on fire and has killed people.

But how does all this affect Athens? Well, Athens County sits on the largest natural gas basin in the U.S., the Marcellus Shale basin. Along with thousands of other counties and cities, Athens could soon come under threat of having fracking in or near our community.

We cannot allow this to happen. Practice has shown fracking to be dangerous and deadly, regardless of what the industry says. In the coming years, Athens will undoubtedly be one of many communities that is approached by the natural gas industry, looking to expand its production.

We must put our welfare over company profits. No matter where you go from Athens in the future, never support this process. Fracking is awful, it’s that simple.

Will Drabold is a junior at Athens High School enrolled in Ohio University classes and a columnist for The Post. If you have a better alternative for extracting natural gas, email Will at dd195710@ohiou.edu.

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