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CANDICE TRAVIESO

A Proposal for Undergraduate Research Project: Effects of Fracking on Groundwater


Student Government Associations Environmental Coalition University of Central Florida Abstract The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a study on the effects of natural gas drilling; however in their most recent progress report, one important controversy associated with fracking was not mentioned, drinking water contamination (OH&S). The report fails to address the frequency at which groundwater sources have become contaminated due to fracking, once in every 1 million wells or once in every 1,000 wells (OH&S). Fracking or the process of mining for natural gas has detrimental effects on the environment and public health. Unfortunately, sufficient research is not being conducted on the effects of fracking and drinking-water contamination, not even by the E.P.A. Therefore, I am applying for a scholarship with the Student Government Associations Environmental Coalition at the University of Central Florida to fund my undergraduate research project that will investigate the effects of fracking and water contamination. The following proposal discusses fracking, the environmental and economical effects, and solutions that government agencies can enforce that will protect the drinking water in the U.S. Summary Natural gas is a seemingly a safer fuel for the environment; however the methods used to extract natural gas requires fracking, a process which pumps millions of gallons of water and chemicals thousands of feet underground, in order to create fissures in the shale through which the gas can escape (West). This proposal investigates the effects of fracking and water contamination, and will compare shale basin and local samples. In particular, I will determine whether the effects of horizontal drilling coupled with multi-stage hydraulic fracturing increases the levels of containments and carcinogens present in drinking water in various regions impacted by fracking (process). We hypothesize that the chemicals used in fracking may have a subsequent environmental and health hazards unrelated to natural gas extraction. My specific aims are: 1. Determine the effects of fracking in specific regions of the U.S. 2. Determine whether the effects on the environment are a direct result of fracking or various types of pollution. 3. Determine solutions for fracking that would sustain our national demand of fuel.

CANDICE TRAVIESO Introduction I. Natural Gas and Fracking Natural gas is a clean and versatile fuel that provides 24 percent of the electricity used in homes and industries in the United States (Natural Gas Facts). Unfortunately, fracking, the common process used for mining natural gas, requires harmful chemicals which remain embedded underground and produce significant amounts of toxic waste. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of chemicals used by drillers, such as benzene, chloride, toluene and sulfates, accumulate underground in rock and shale formations (West). Fracking siphons millions of gallons water, sand, salts, and toxic chemicals into rock and shale at high pressure to increase production in 90 percent of all oil and gas wells in the United States (West). The wastewater or flowback water returns to the surface after the fracking process is completed (Clean Water Action). The accumulation of flowback water results in a toxic sludge that can containment water and cause severe health hazards. Companies and communities must provide solutions to control the buildup of underground waste that can contaminate drinking water, soil and other components of the environment that sustain plant, animal and human life (West). To avoid losing an essential form of energy, safe and economical practices must be enforced to reduce the accumulation of toxic waste that remains trapped underground. The predicted statistics for natural gas production in the in the United States is shown below (Figure 1-1). This document proposes funding a research project dedicated to creating a comprehensive set of reforms that would secure energy independence for the United States while reducing the environmental risks of fracking. The proposed research project will discuss the environmental and economical factors of fracking and employ solutions to decrease the risks associated with extracting natural gas with chemical and toxic waste. This proposal includes my methods of research, my qualifications, and a detailed outline of my proposed research project. II. Drinking Water Contamination Fracking triggers dangerous environmental and health concerns because of the use of harmful chemicals which accumulate underground into toxic sludge that contaminates water sources. More than 1,700 Natural Gas Power Plants are in operation in the U.S and technology has increased our domestic supply of natural gas to an estimated 1,836 trillion cubic feet (Natural Gas Facts). The cultural demand and reliance for alternative energy is necessary due to environmental concerns have boosted natural gas production in the last 20 years; likely to continue to increase dramatically (Natural Gas). In addition, eight other states have reported surface, ground, and drinking water contamination, as a result of the harmful chemicals used in fracking (Clean Water Action). Pennsylvania has reported over 1,400 environmental violations attributed to deep gas wells; however fracking still remains a common industry practice (Clean Water Action).
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CANDICE TRAVIESO Although natural gas is a superior alternative to coal, renewables, and nuclear power, the toxic chemicals associate with fracking are harmful to society and the environment. Companies use fracking fluid, a cocktail of water, sand, and toxic chemicals, to blast thousands of feet deeper than conventional natural gas wells to extract oil and gas embedded in rock and shale formations (Clean Water Action). However, companies refuse to disclose the contents of fracking fluid to the public, though samples reveal abnormally high levels of formaldehyde, acetic acids, citric acids, and boric acids, among hundreds of other contaminants, including diesel fuel (Clean Water Action). In 2011, congressional Democrats exposed the results of an investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that proved oil and gas companies had injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous chemicals into wells in more than 13 states from 2005 to 2009 (West). According to the EIA, natural gas-fired electricity and by generation is expected to account for 80 percent of all added electricity generation capacity by 2035, as shown below (Figure 1-1) (Natural Gas). Although cheaper fossil fuels are available, like coal, natural gas is the cleanest burning fuel and significantly less harmful to the environment (Natural Gas). The public is concerned with environmental conservation, therefore natural has reliance is predicted to increase drastically within the next 25 years; however we must conduct research on the effects of fracking and determine whether this mining process is as harmful as the other pollutants. Although natural gas notably reduces pollution compared other fossil fuels, the effects of fracking are detrimental to the environment. Furthermore, my comprehensive research project would expose additional analysis on the environmental safety of fracking

Figure 1-1 For my research project, I will examine the environmental and economical effects of fracking in various regions of the U.S, as well as identify a set of reforms that will protect U.S. groundwater.
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CANDICE TRAVIESO Project Description The research project will observe the negative environmental and economical effects of fracking, and determine specific regions that are affected by Americas continuous demand for fuel. My project includes three points: 1. Determine the effects of fracking in specific regions of the U.S. I will submit samples of groundwater from various regions affected by fracking and locally to a commercial laboratory to test and compare environmental contaminants. 2. Determine whether the effects on the environment are a direct result of fracking or various types of pollution. I will analyze the levels of contaminants in samples of water submitted to the lab, and compare results of containments to several regions near fracking and locally. 3. Determine solutions for fracking that would sustain our national demand of fuel. I will review the benefits a comprehensive set of reforms that would reduce the risks or fracking and implement industry standards that companies would be lawfully required to follow. Methodology and Timeline The lab utilizes an array of methods to test water samples for Carbamates, Haloacetic Acids, Nitrate, Chromium, Formaldehyde, Sulfate, and hundreds of other hazardous containments that could accumulate due to fracking (Water Test Methods). Analysis on the samples will be conducted with tests like the FHA/HUD Water Test Series, FHA-Short Series, FHA-Long Series, and other miscellaneous individual analytes to determine whether harmful levels of containments are present or increase near regions affected by fracking (Water Test Methods). Test results are released within 60 days of experimentation and lab fees range from $20 to $275 per test. To complete Aim 1 I intend to collect data on the effects of fracking by testing samples of groundwater and soil in regions like the Ft. Worth Basin in Texas, the Denver Basin in Colorado, the Appalachian Basin in Pennsylvania, the Black Warrior Basin in Tennessee, and locally. In the commercial lab we will test the potable water samples for containments and carcinogens, like methane, that pose a threat to the environment and public health (West). To complete Aim 2 I will analyze the lab results and determine whether the data reveals a negative correlation between levels of containments and fracking in different shale basins compared to the local samples, where fracking fluid was not utilized. If containments are observed, I will then be able to determine whether fracking is detrimental to the groundwater and recognize solutions, like a set reform, that will implement safer alternatives for fracking fluid, commonly used for natural gas extraction.

CANDICE TRAVIESO I will specifically look for increased levels of contamination and carcinogens in regions near fracking and compare these levels to enacted safety standards of the EPA. While I do not know all of the pollutants necessary to define potable water or soil as hazardous, I do know that evidence shows that the flowback of fracking fluid results in the accumulation of toxic waste underground and is responsible for water contamination, ground contamination, habitat fragmentation, and other environmental issues hazardous to public safety. To complete Aim 3 I will compare levels of containments or carcinogens identified in shale basins near areas of natural gas extraction compared to local samples and any difference will be concluded as a result of toxic waste accumulation due to fracking. The Clean Water Act of Michigan proposes several reforms that will be environmentally beneficial if federally enforced. These reforms will: 1. Require public disclosure of the contents of the chemicals used in the fracking process. 2. Require creation of a science-based review standard for when site-specific evaluations are found necessary tool because of expected impacts. 3. Require disclosure of the amount of contaminated fracking fluid that remains underground. 4. Require monitoring to clearly understand the flow of fracking fluids that might prevent groundwater contamination. 5. Require companies, not taxpayers, to pay for the legal and financial impacts of well accidents and proper monitoring. Such actions will prevent corporations from acting irresponsibly (Clean Water Action). My preliminary research has had no cost due to articles available online. However, the budget for additional research would require a $1,000 grant to support my travel expenses and lab fees. Funding will provide aid to research that protects clean water and provides a sustainable environment for present and future generations. Although culture views natural gas as a safer alternative fuel, the consequences of fracking cause an array of detrimental public health risks. Exposure to containments and carcinogens cause short and long term effects that can be life threatening. Fracking poses a multitude of environmental and economical threats, especially water contamination due to the dangerous, unidentified chemicals that are pumped into the ground and left to accumulate into toxic waste. My research project will reveal the truth about natural gas extraction, analyze samples of groundwater collected near shale basins mined for natural gas, and proposes a set of reforms that will protect the environment and society from the dangers associated with fracking.
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CANDICE TRAVIESO Qualifications I am a junior environmental engineering major with an interest in law and public health. For more than a year I have been an intern with Holland and Knight, a local law firm dedicated to environmental practices like Water Law, Environment, Sustainable Development, and Alternative Energy. Following graduation, I plan to apply to the University of Florida Levin College of Law in Gainesville, Fl. and receive my J. D. in Environmental Law and Litigation. This past summer I also interned in with Partner Rodger Sims, who practices water resources, environmental, and land use law. The experience I gained during my internships with Holland and Knight and Mr. Sims has inspired me propose funding for my undergraduate research project relating to Environmental Law. In addition to my major, I have completed the following elective courses while maintaining a 3.83 GPA. Land Use and Environmental Law (PLA 4554) Issues in Environmental Program Management (PAD 4351) Solid Waste Management (ENV 4341)

References 1. Clean Water Action. Fact Sheets: All About Fracking. Cleanwater, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. 2. OH&S. EPA Fracking Report Leaves Out Contamination Stats. OHSonline, 2013. n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. 3. Natural Gas and the Environment. NaturalGas.org. Department of Energy-Office of Fossil Energy, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. 4. Natural Gas Facts. NaturalGasCaucus, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. 5. Water Test Methods. Accutest Laboratories. Analyte Group, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. 6. West. L. What is Fracking, Hydrofracking or Hydraulic Fracturing? About. Environmental Issues: Health and Environment, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2013.