There has been a lot of news coverage lately about a family in Colorado whose home is surrounded by natural gas wells. Natural gas has migrated into their water source and contaminated their drinking water.
The media are loving this story because they can show film footage of water from the kitchen sink being lit on fire and bursting into flames, due to the presence of natural gas in the water. Steve Doocy on FOX & Friends said "...this is nuts." David Shuster on MSNBC's 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' said "It's a terrible situation...."
This family can't drink their water (water is being hauled in) and can't sell what was once their dream home. The situation is being investigated.
What is even more tragic is that this one example is just the tip of a giant iceberg that is affecting communities across the country. Oil and gas is being pumped out of the ground in 34 states. Reports of drinking water contamination related to some of these operations have come from families in Arkansas, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming, in addition to Colorado. I've mentioned some of these stories in previous blog posts. Some families walk away from their homes and are financially devastated, some have suffered severe health impacts, and one house in Ohio exploded last year; fortunately the residents were not injured.
And where natural gas has migrated into underground sources of drinking water, other contaminants may also migrate along with it, such as chemical additives used by the industry or naturally occuring substances like benzene, a known carcinogen.
Industry has the technical ability and the financial resources to clean up its act. What could be more precious than safe drinking water? Both FOX and MSNBC got it right - this is a terrible situation that needs to be corrected with government oversight at the federal, state and local level to protect human health and the environment. Congress should start by closing the Halliburton loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act.
More information is available in NRDC's Report: "Drilling Down," which discusses the health and environmental effects of oil and gas production.