Oil and gas operations "a death sentence for soil"

Today's Denver Post has a very important story about the toll that oil and gas production is taking on soil.

Soil sounds like a really boring topic. But, as the Soil Science Society of America says: "soils sustain life." According to the Society, "soil supports and nourishes the plants that we eat" and that livestock eat, soil "filters and purifies much of the water we drink," "soils teem with microorganisms that have given us many life-saving medications," and "Protecting soil from erosion helps reduce the amount of air-borne dust we breathe."

According to the Post:

  • At least 716,982 gallons (45 percent) of the petroleum chemicals spilled during the past decade in Colorado have stayed in the ground after initial cleanup — contaminating soil, sometimes spreading into groundwater.
  • Oil and gas drilling produces up to 500 tons of dirt from every new well, some of it soaked with hydrocarbons and laced with potentially toxic minerals and salts.
  • Heavy trucks crush soil, "suffocating the delicate subsurface ecosystems that traditionally made Colorado's Front Range suitable for farming."

These impacts from the tens of thousands of wells in Colorado alone led a Colorado soil scientist to state that oil and gas operations are "like a death sentence for soil."

The Post points out that no federal or state agency has ever assessed the impact of the oil and gas boom on soil and on human health.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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