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Thread: Fracking histeria and science

  1. #1 Fracking histeria and science 
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    Dimock Pennsylvania at the center of hysteria about fracking and featured in films and emotional articles such as this one: A Colossal Fracking Mess | Business | Vanity Fair, has now been researched in detail by the EPA.

    The conclusion:
    "This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,"
    Water safe in town made famous by fracking-EPA - US news - Environment - msnbc.com

    When I find the actual study I'll provide a link unless someone beats me to it.

    But of course the madness probably won't stop...law suits will continue...people will site containments found which probably have nothing to do with fracking...and people will continue to push that the EPA waste tax payers dollars to provide potable water to homes that don't need it.....

    It's a good story of hysteria trumping science. Now I hope cooler heads prevail so science can put a more objective eye towards risk based on gas-drilling practices and local geology.


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    My personal view is that fracking will die a natural death in many places because of water use. Not contamination, but just plain water.

    It uses vast quantities which are then unsuitable and unavailable for any other purpose - unlike say irrigation which allows water back into the groundwater system to rejoin the river (provided the water's not transported miles away) or hydro dams or run of river power generation. And in a lot of places, there really isn't enough water to spare for such a purpose.


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    Water supply is not much of a problem here in PA.

    I just had my well water tested, pre-fracking. They are getting smarter now, and will start building up some data to compare before and after.
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    They are getting smarter now, and will start building up some data to compare before and after.
    The fact that they don't have that data already tells you all you need to know about the alleged "science" behind this mess.

    People who are messing around with explosives, huge quantities of long term contaminants, and aquifers, bear a fairly heavy burden of proof, one would think. And they bore it without data, apparently - all those scientific types.

    Meanwhile, the notion that the chemical composition of the fracking compounds is a secret simply boggles the mind. The sheer arrogance may be the most impressive part.
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    The sheer arrogance may be the most impressive part.
    I don't know how things are done in America, but I think the 'arrogance' leads to a lot of unnecessary problems. I'm pretty sure the 'lock the gates' movement among Australian farmers would be a lot less successful if the companies hadn't been 'less than forthcoming', or downright evasive if you want to get nasty about the behaviour of some of them, about the implications of the fine print in the contracts they've 'negotiated' with landholders. People not realising until long after the deal was done that their land will be peppered with sites and criss-crossed with access roads are much, much more likely to notice and to pursue the implications of other adverse effects. If they'd been fully informed and conversant with the details from the outset, they'd be a lot more comfortable with the reality when the contractors turn up with the machinery.

    I don't know why the companies behave like this. They've got the upper hand right from the start because of the laws that consider the resource not to be private property in the first place. The "agreement" is a foregone conclusion, only the details have to be sorted out. Is is just that the companies think they can save a few bucks in rent by not disclosing the full impact on the landowner?
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    @Lynx & Harold; Gee guys, landowners vs energy corporations! How could one of you gentleman even begin to pick a side on this one? You should probably just follow your own hysteria and go with the giant evil energy corporations. After all, they have private jets. Sometimes two!
    Last edited by GiantEvil; May 20th, 2012 at 03:34 PM. Reason: Typo, Oops.
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  8. #7  
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    It's just that, even if the things they don't divulge are benign this time, it's just plain a bad idea to set a precedent where they don't have to divulge. Just because one generation of corporates/government can be trusted to operate with no checks and balances (because in effect, it's impossible to check on something you're not even allowed to know about) - doesn't mean the next generation of them will also be so trust worthy. You have to accept that each new generation is a random selection of people. Any precedent you set for one generation, will next be applied to a totally random entity. How smart is it to put no restrictions on that group of people you don't even know yet?

    So, in that light, I'm quite happy with the hysteria. I want the companies doing the extracting to have to divulge absolutely everything in order to be allowed to operate. I'm not comfortable trusting a few government people with eyes-only status to sign off on my behalf. In a democracy the people have to be able to know if their government is doing a good job. How do I know if those government people are honest if I don't even know what they were deciding about? Essentially we're taking the most anti-democratic aspect of national security (classified information the public doesn't and can't vote on), and moving it into our environmental administration.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Dimock Pennsylvania at the center of hysteria about fracking and featured in films and emotional articles such as this one: A Colossal Fracking Mess | Business | Vanity Fair, has now been researched in detail by the EPA.

    The conclusion:
    "This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,"
    Water safe in town made famous by fracking-EPA - US news - Environment - msnbc.com

    When I find the actual study I'll provide a link unless someone beats me to it.

    But of course the madness probably won't stop...law suits will continue...people will site containments found which probably have nothing to do with fracking...and people will continue to push that the EPA waste tax payers dollars to provide potable water to homes that don't need it.....

    It's a good story of hysteria trumping science. Now I hope cooler heads prevail so science can put a more objective eye towards risk based on gas-drilling practices and local geology.
    There's plenty of science on the other side as well. I wonder if you'd be as serene were it taking place under your drinking water supply? Would you then be as inclined to trust the EPA, which has been budgetarily gutted and threatened and overruled by Congress?
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    Would you then be as inclined to trust the EPA,
    The short answer is yes---For at least 30 years I've always asked the question....what does science say. Even when I had my parents dug well tested to find it high in salt, and biological contamination after it rains (I'm probably a gardia carrier). To get to your specific concern--I don't think there's any proof that the EPA didn't apply enough resources to study this town. Nor, except for 2010, has the EPA overall budget changed substantially in funding or number of employees for the past ten years. EPA's Budget Execution and Resource Use | Planning, Budget, and Results | US EPA (whether they should exist at all in their current form is ripe for the political forum).

    I'll totally agree fracking appears to be an understudied--there aren't many few peer review studies about it; do any substantiate the concerns? Dimock has been touted as the Love Canal of fracking, where all the sins of big industry would be revealed. It's thus far not turning out that way.
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    To tell you the truth I'm more concerned about the junk yard up the road, and what kind of solvents, radiator coolant, and so forth might be getting into my well water from there. There is nothing that doesn't have some risk associated with it. At least with the gas well, I got something for the mineral rights lease and I'll collect some royalties.
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    I work in the oil and gas industry, but have little direct connection currently with fracking activities. What I have explored has lead me to a pretty firm conclusion that the issues are not directly related to the fracking process itself, but to questionable well planning, poor cement jobs of primary casing strings, and inadequate testing of these cement jobs. If those opposed to the fracking focus on the fracking itself they will miss the source of any problems that do arise.
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    Even though it has caused earth quakes here, experts are giving the green light for fracking to take place all over the UK.

    "The advice of the first official British government report into fracking, published on Tuesday, is all but certain to be accepted by ministers, with the result that thousands of new wells could be drilled across the UK.

    The experts say hydraulic fracturing, whereby a well is drilled hundreds of metres deep and pumped full of water, sand and chemicals in order to release methane gas, should be allowed on a wide scale, although they accept that two small earthquakes in Blackpool last spring were caused by the first stages of fracking activities in the only British plants operating.

    The government's own data revealed serious questions around the safety of fracking in areas of known seismic activity, such as the two wells in Lancashire, because of evidence that the resulting earthquakes have damaged the integrity of at least one well. There is also apparent confusion over which government agencies should be overseeing the process to ensure its public safety, with the responsibility shared among several bodies that appear not to be co-ordinating."

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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    I work in the oil and gas industry, but have little direct connection currently with fracking activities. What I have explored has lead me to a pretty firm conclusion that the issues are not directly related to the fracking process itself, but to questionable well planning, poor cement jobs of primary casing strings, and inadequate testing of these cement jobs. If those opposed to the fracking focus on the fracking itself they will miss the source of any problems that do arise.
    Could not the same be said of catastrophes such as the BP oil spill? As long as the people on the projects aren't so amazingly competent that they can give us a 100% guarantee they won't make any mistakes at all, we have to accept that we are rolling the dice whenever we let them drill.

    So, do you know any such people?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    To tell you the truth I'm more concerned about the junk yard up the road, and what kind of solvents, radiator coolant, and so forth might be getting into my well water from there. There is nothing that doesn't have some risk associated with it. At least with the gas well, I got something for the mineral rights lease and I'll collect some royalties.
    It's nice to have someone put it in perspective. The dump near where I live has been raising similar questions. And both things result in methane!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Could not the same be said of catastrophes such as the BP oil spill? As long as the people on the projects aren't so amazingly competent that they can give us a 100% guarantee they won't make any mistakes at all, we have to accept that we are rolling the dice whenever we let them drill.
    It would be inappropriate of me to comment on the BP oil spill. I will comment on your general point.

    It is not a matter of competent people, it is a matter of competent people and competent processes. A properly designed process will contain within it safeguards that dramatically reduce risk. You cannot guarantee when you set out to drive in your car that you will reach your destination safely yet you can take many precautions to ensure that you do: maximise your skills as a driver, ensure your car is mechanically sound, plan the trip, anticipate emergencies. The same can be done with any enterprise. From what I can glean from talking directly with personse involved in fracking we are not yet dealing with a suite of mature processes. That is up to the industry to put right and the government to ensure it is put right.
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  16. #15  
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    So, the field definitely needs strong government oversight. Probably automobile safety would not be what it is today without some regulation. Some auto-makers certainly go above and beyond in this respect, but the only reason they can afford to include all those safety measures without it having too giant an impact on their final sale price is because all of their competitors are being forcibly required to include a basic suite of safety measures as well (so all sticker prices are equally raised, instead of one lone company having to charge dramatically more than its competitors.)

    I wonder what it will take to achieve the same result in the fracking industry?
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  17. #16  
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    currently, there are 1400 drilling rigs operating on land and offshore in the usa
    and we have a glut of oil inventories
    if that (and the economic woes of europe) drop the price of oil(@=raise the value of the dollar), there will be less interest in investing more(including fracking)
    but fracking to revitalize an old field means optomizing the already drilled resource

    imports of 7.86 mbbl/day/march2012 annualized= @2.9 billion bbl, (almost 1/2 of which came from canada and mexico)

    the price of crude has been up over 1000% in the past 12 years or 500% from the previous 10 year average, and part of me suspects that a causal factor in the world wide recession
    (median home prices are down again this year over most of the country)

    as in most actions, fracking permits need to be looked at on a case by case basis,
    if i lived where fracking was to take place, i'd get extensive samples of my water tested by 2 independent labs for a baseline comparison
    when a local town drilled into the same aquafer we use, i did witnessed and signed drawdown measurements on our well to see if they were lowering the pressure and water table of our aquafer
    fortunately, the levels and pressure remained within seasonal norms
    had it deviated, the laws in place would have been able to force them to drill us a new well.
    i would assume the same is true of introducing conatminants?
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    There is almost no connection between prices and amount of drilling the US does---we are a bit player in terms of oil production and it's a world commodity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    There is almost no connection between prices and amount of drilling the US does---we are a bit player in terms of oil production and it's a world commodity.
    is that a joke?
    bit player?
    huh?
    (we're the freaking five hundred pound gorilla)
    we import 1/2 our oil consumed
    we're the worlds third biggest producer(11%), and the biggest consumer(19%) (almost 1/4-1/3 total consumption)
    if not for the high prices of oil, little deep sea drilling would be economically feasable
    and we'd have 3-400 operating rigs instead of the 1400 currently working
    more drilling means more production means less imports
    less imports means lower global demand
    means lower prices
    supply & demand & speculative prices
    (forget the lord, the markets "work in mysterious ways"

    but then again,
    i could be wrong
    Last edited by sculptor; June 1st, 2012 at 05:22 PM.
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    And at that you really think fracking is having any serious effect on prices--it has very little.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    And at that you really think fracking is having any serious effect on prices--it has very little.
    agree
    fracking is indeed a bit player
    and, just as the merry crew of the deepwater horizon, sometimes people make mistakes with massive consequences

    boils down to a risk reward balance?
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    currently, there are 1400 drilling rigs operating on land and offshore in the usa
    Correction: 1980 as of 1st June. Rather down on the peak levels that approached 5,000.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    And at that you really think fracking is having any serious effect on prices--it has very little.
    What makes you say this? If the drop in natural gas prices was all caused by global economic collapse, then why didn't oil prices also collapse?Natural Gas Price | Comparison, Chart, Map, History
    Natural Gas Prices Over Time - Long TermA graph showing a long-term history of average annual wellhead prices for natural gas produced in the United States is shown at right. In the 1950's and 1960's the number of homes and businesses supplied with natural gas was growing and a diversity of uses were being promoted. During that time the price of natural gas increased slowly. The rapid rise in price starting at about year 2000 was caused mainly by the combination of increased demand for natural gas and rising energy prices in general. The sharp decline that occurred in 2009 was a response to the global economic collapse that drastically cut demand. Also in 2008 and 2009 many newly-discovered natural gas fields were being brought online causing a glut of gas that put additional downward pressure on prices.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    There is almost no connection between prices and amount of drilling the US does---we are a bit player in terms of oil production and it's a world commodity.
    is that a joke?
    bit player?
    huh?
    (we're the freaking five hundred pound gorilla)
    we import 1/2 our oil consumed
    we're the worlds third biggest producer(11%), and the biggest consumer(19%) (almost 1/4-1/3 total consumption)
    if not for the high prices of oil, little deep sea drilling would be economically feasable
    and we'd have 3-400 operating rigs instead of the 1400 currently working
    more drilling means more production means less imports
    less imports means lower global demand
    means lower prices
    supply & demand & speculative prices
    (forget the lord, the markets "work in mysterious ways"

    but then again,
    i could be wrong
    Let me add some references to that.

    If you are looking at oil production, the USA is the third highest producing country on Earth. Note that OPEC represents more than one country (it is a collusive agreement by multiple nations to charge the same price), so collectively OPEC kind of overshadows us.


    List of countries by oil production - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In terms of proven oil reserves, however, we are #13. We just use more of what we have. We mine it more aggressively.

    List of countries by proven oil reserves - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    However, fracking is usually used to extract natural gas, right? In terms of extracting natural gas, we're #2, with Russia as #1.

    List of countries by natural gas production - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Again, however, this is because we mine it more aggressively. It's not because our reserves are greater. In terms of reserves, we're #5.

    List of countries by natural gas proven reserves - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    currently, there are 1400 drilling rigs operating on land and offshore in the usa
    Correction: 1980 as of 1st June. Rather down on the peak levels that approached 5,000.
    thanx John
    source?

    hard to get accurate #s when each site i visit has different #s
    here's two:
    http://www.wtrg.com/rotaryrigs.html
    http://www.ogj.com/oil-drilling-and-...perations.html
    that claim 1980

    one says 1386 drilling for oil, and another 588 rigs drilling for natural gas
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    In terms of proven oil reserves, however, we are #13.
    "Proven oil reserves" is a misleading statistic.
    Say Anything » The “Proven Oil Reserves” Fallacy » Say Anything
    Roland Hwang of the Natural Resources Defense Council specifically argues that because the United States has only 2% of the world’s proven oil resources developing those resources cannot possibly make a difference:
    America consumes roughly one-quarter of the world’s oil, yet we are home to less than 2% of the globe’s proven oil reserves. So much for ‘drill, baby, drill.’ Even if we were to drill a hole everywhere in the country that has oil and drain every drop, we’d have enough to last us just about three years.
    This is more than little misleading, though. You see, “proven reserves” isn’t a very good metric for telling us how much oil the United States has. Here’s how the Society of Petroleum Engineers defines “proven reserves.”
    Proved reserves are those quantities of petroleum which, by analysis of geological and engineering data, can be estimated with reasonable certainty to be commercially recoverable, from a given date forward, from known reservoirs and under current economic conditions, operating methods, and government regulations.
    This definition eliminates a lot of known oil reserves from being calculated.
    For instance, the government ban on developing oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge prevents those oil reserves from being counted as “proven.” The oil producers know the oil is there. They know they can drill for it and pump it. But because the government says they can’t, it’s not “proven.”
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    To answer a couple questions fracking is widely used for both gas and oil production. I think we American's tend to think of it as gas because more of the alarm has been in formerly oil producing places which are now being explored again for potential gas, some of which have been central to the controversy such as those in Pennsylvania. Also while we might be the 3rd greatest producer we are near full capacity for commercially recoverable oil, while Saudi and it's corporative Arab states can turn the oil tap up or off almost at a whim to keep global prices in a range to maximize their profits--their nationalized oil companies dwarf our largest ones as well. Saudi won't reach it's capacity for at least another decade, and until than regardless of what the US does, or how many drill baby drill speeches we hear, we in reality have little influence over prices compared to Arab nations. Development of oil shale might change this but not by much. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...732227492.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    currently, there are 1400 drilling rigs operating on land and offshore in the usa
    Correction: 1980 as of 1st June. Rather down on the peak levels that approached 5,000.
    thanx John
    source?
    The Hughes Rig count has been the industry standard for many years. It has limitations, but is the most commonly accepted number. I place less confidence in their International numbers which ignore - or at least used to - China and the FSU.
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    A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Cliff Frohlich at the University of Texas at Austin (Two-year survey comparing earthquake activity and injection-well locations in the Barnett Shale, Texas) seems to identify an association with earthquakes local to fracking operations:

    A plausible hypothesis to explain these observations is that injection only triggers earthquakes if injected fluids reach and relieve friction on a suitably oriented, nearby fault that is experiencing regional tectonic stress. Testing this hypothesis would require identifying geographic regions where there is interpreted subsurface structure information available to determine whether there are faults near seismically active and seismically quiescent injection wells.
    There may be a relationship with high injection rates (over 150,000 barrels of water/month) and frequent low magnitude earthquakes.
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    So to summarize: the issue is not hysteria vs science, but industry vs community. The science isn't there, the hysteria is equally sparse on the ground, and the conflict is within the arenas of politics and judgment: How to best govern an irresponsible industry?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    There is almost no connection between prices and amount of drilling the US does---we are a bit player in terms of oil production and it's a world commodity.
    I would tend to agree. Given that crude is a publicly traded commodity, it isn't simply driven by supply and demand forces. Even if we managed to increase our supply, the price will not change in a parallel manner. Speculation plays a big role, which is unfortunate given our requirement of crude.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    Even though it has caused earth quakes here, experts are giving the green light for fracking to take place all over the UK.
    Not the RSPB.

    BBC News - Fracking: RSPB objects to Cuadrilla plans for two sites
    The RSPB has lodged objections to proposals to drill for shale gas and oil in Lancashire and West Sussex.

    The bird charity says regulations are inadequate to ensure water, landscapes and wildlife are protected.
    I used to be a keen birdwatcher, have been a member of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and have worked as a conservation volunteer at various RSPB nature reserves in England and Scotland – so I know the organization quite well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olinguito View Post
    "The RSPB has lodged objections to proposals to drill for shale gas and oil in Lancashire and West Sussex."

    <...>– so I know the organization quite well.
    Based on that knowledge do you think their objections are likely to be pro forma, 'usual suspects', knee-jerk, "it's expected of us", or well researched, solidly founded and worthy of considerable attention?
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    There was a recent article on fracking in New Scientist. Overall, it was positive, and suggested that the extra shale gas reserves released by this technology will both postpone peak oil and reduce CO2 emissions - for a couple decades. Most of the environmental objections to fracking are shown to be less of a problem than many greens will insist. Contamination of aquifers, for example, has not been shown to happen. Water with chemicals pumped down for the fracking process will (20%) rebound up the drill hole and that needs to be processed like industrial waste water. The surge of methane initially can be flared off. Loss of methane from pipelines can be controlled, since detection and repair is now an established procedure.

    So overall, the New Scientist article indicates that fracking can be a substantial asset, if proper precautions are taken.
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  35. #34  
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    I have backed away from the fracking issue even though I am very "green". The hunger for energy is such that all sources willbe exploited. I like to fight winable fights.
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  36. #35  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    To tell you the truth I'm more concerned about the junk yard up the road, and what kind of solvents, radiator coolant, and so forth might be getting into my well water from there. There is nothing that doesn't have some risk associated with it. At least with the gas well, I got something for the mineral rights lease and I'll collect some royalties.
    I used to have well water also, Harold, but when we did our addition they made up shut down our well, (due to proximity to septic), but sometimes really wondered what was going in our well water from above us. Always careful about what I use so that it does not affect the creek. Don't think others always think about it.
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  37. #36  
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    I understand the issue of septic tanks. Where I live, there are many. Not us. When my wife and I had our home built, we put in a modern domestic sewage treatment plant. Our discharge water is quite pure. But using a well for drinking water in an area with old fashioned septic tanks is just plain crazy.
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  38. #37  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    I understand the issue of septic tanks. Where I live, there are many. Not us. When my wife and I had our home built, we put in a modern domestic sewage treatment plant. Our discharge water is quite pure. But using a well for drinking water in an area with old fashioned septic tanks is just plain crazy.
    Unless they are positioned and installed incorrectly there is little risk. Septic tanks are sealed unless completely full with solid waste and shunt liquids to the drain fields. Drain fields will last for many decades and even when they start to fail only contaminate the surface water. Most modern artesian wells (and many dug ones) have casing and cap that extend well above the water table and ground level, minimizing risk of surface water contamination even is some exist. In my current house they are about 200' apart and at opposite ends of the house's ground slopes. We had the water checked when I bought the place and got the green light. A lot of things have to go wrong for their to be a problem and codes prevent most of them--as a result contamination of wells by sewage are pretty uncommon.
    --
    I'm surprised to read there wasn't an environmental impact study required for that gas well--I wonder if it's even true, or just not as comprehensive as the bird group would like.
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  39. #38  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    I understand the issue of septic tanks. Where I live, there are many. Not us. When my wife and I had our home built, we put in a modern domestic sewage treatment plant. Our discharge water is quite pure. But using a well for drinking water in an area with old fashioned septic tanks is just plain crazy.
    Water quality was fine. Tested before we purchased the house!

    The septic is safe. We put in a new one (required) which is huge.

    The only problem I have seen is our neighbors which was too close to the creek, and when we had a major creek flood (rained 12 inches in 8 hours, unusual) it literally took out their septic tank!
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