Thursday, November 11, 2010

Risk ... natural gas production, shale and drinking water

Dear Colleagues

Natural gas production is one of the boom areas in the energy field ... but there may be risks that are presently "off-the-radar" in the news and the public dialog.

In the aftermath of the BP Gulf oil spill, the matter if risk ought to be high on the agenda for public dialog ... but sadly this does not seem to be so.

While energy is important ... water is even more important. In the main the United States of America has been able to manage the water situation, but it is getting more tenuous as time goes by. The major water infrastructure construction that has taken place in the past would not be allowed today because of rules about "environmental impact" ... so much of the water presently being used is available courtesy of "old" infrastructure.

Potable safe groundwater is a key to water in the United States ... but what is going to happen to groundwater when natural gas is broken out of shale formations. There is some evidence that the groundwater may become polluted ... maybe not a lot of evidence but enough to be concerned.

When asked how to "un-pollute" the groundwater ... engineers tell you that it cannot be done.

At the moment the water in New York City is natural and very pure. The source of this water is many miles North of New York City in formations that may soon be subject to natural gas exploration and eventually production. How much is the "risk" in a situation where New York City no more has potable water?

I would like to see more informed dialog about all aspects of this question. At the moment the dominant part of the dialog is that there are big profits to be made by exploiting natural gas in the shale formations around the United States. But what is the pollution risk for the country's groundwater?

Peter Burgess

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