Image: George Gallice via flickr
As if there aren't enough problems with fracking already: a U.S. Forest Service researcher has found that wastewater from fracking in a West Virginia forest wiped out ground plants, killed more than half the trees in the area, and drastically changed the soil chemistry.The study by Mary Beth Adams, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, found that the injection of about 75,000 gallons of fracking fluids in a quarter-acre of the Monongahela National Forest caused the following:
During application, severe damage and mortality of ground vegetation was observed, followed about 10 d later by premature leaf drop by the overstory trees. Two years after fluid application, 56% of the trees within the fluid application area were dead. Fagus grandifolia Ehrh. was the tree species with the highest mortality, and Acer rubrum L. was the least affected, although all tree species present on the site showed damage symptoms and mortality...
Surface soil concentrations of sodium and chloride increased 50-fold as a result of the land application of hydrofracturing fluids and declined over time
As part of a reaction to the study, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility issued the following statement:
For the past twenty-five years, the Forest Service has not applied any environmental restrictions on private extraction efforts, even in wilderness areas. As a result, forests, like the Monongahela, which sits astride the huge Marcellus Shale gas formation, have struggled with many adverse impacts of widespread drilling. By contrast, the nearby George Washington National Forest (NF) has recently proposed to ban horizontal drilling, a practice associated with hydrofracking, due to concern about both the ecosystem damage and also the huge amount of water required for the fracking process. Two subcommittees of the House of Representatives will hold a joint hearing this Friday to examine the George Washington NF's singular pro-conservation stance.
Executive Director Jeff Ruch said, "The Forest Service has drilled its head deeply into the sand on oil and gas operations harming forest assets."
More on natural gas and hydraulic fracturing:
Natural Gas Far Less Green Than Claimed - Fracking Emissions 1000s Times Higher Than Reported: EPA
Pennsylvania Takes Authority Away From Oil & Gas Inspectors
New York Times Reveals Secret Fracking Documents Showing Undisclosed Levels of Radiation In Drinking Water