What Are the Dangers of Tapping Into Shale Oil Reserves?


Quick Answer

The dangers from tapping into shale oil reserves include contamination of water, air pollution, high water consumption, workplace accidents and exposure to highly toxic chemicals. Many of these dangers are a result fracking, a technique typically used to tap into shale oil reserves.

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Full Answer

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, causes risks to environmental health because shale is surrounded by toxic chemicals and rests below underground water tables. These water reserves are at risk of contamination during the mining process. Fracking wells pipe up to 40,000 gallons of toxic chemicals below the surface to break the shale apart. The wells raise the chemicals to the surface along with the shale and other toxic substances. These additional toxins include radioactive materials, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and air pollutants. Leftover waste water contains more toxins than public water treatment facilities are capable of treating; however, the waste water is sometimes discarded in surface waters.

Fracking releases significant amounts of underground air pollutants and generates them with drilling procedures and transport vehicles. Exposure to air pollutants and fracking chemicals present health concerns for local communities and mining and processing workers.

Water usage is an additional concern resulting from fracking. A single shale well requires up to 8 million gallons of water. Such a high amount of water consumption could potentially deplete the water supplies of local communities.

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