If you live in the United States, you’ve heard about
fracking and drilling nightmares. From clouded, dirty water to high cancer
rates to death, more and more people are raising their voices about the horrors
of the industry. Its impact on the environment is also undeniable.
Heartbreaking narratives are released each day that document the struggle of
those impacted by fracking. The Guardian recently reported on Veronica
Kronvall, Ponder, Texas resident, whose dream home turned into a health hazard
only four years after purchase. The market price of her home decreased
drastically, but that was nothing compared to the consistent pain she was in
from nausea, headaches, and nosebleeds.1
All this only began to happen after a natural gas company set up wells behind
her home. These stories and nightmare living situations are consistent with
drilling and fracking, yet somehow fracking continues to edge its way into American
It leaves many in a state of wonder as to why these
industries continue to permeate neighborhoods. Although 51% of Americans oppose
a number that has grown in the past few years, the fear that drives that
opposition is the idea that fracking might show up in their backyards. But who
does that impact? Studies are overwhelmingly showing that the citizens hardest
hit by drilling and fracking are poor and marginalized communities.
Fracking’s Impact on
the Health and Environment
The most immediate impact on these communities can be
witnessed in their environment. While there are the less likely hazards of
potential gas-related explosions, air pollution, and water consumption in
places that are already water deficient, one of the most noticeable changes in
home environment centers around groundwater3.
Contamination of groundwater, often showing itself as murky water that tests
positive for heavy metals. Water will also contain a foul smell and taste. For
families who cannot move, this often means buying gallons of bottled water
weekly – as even showering in water contaminated by fracking can be hazardous
For families with enough money, fracking showing up in their neighborhood is a
financial pain. They must spend gas money to drive and buy uncontaminated
water, their medical bills often skyrocket from the health issues that their
families face, and for many with the resources, this means selling their house
for a low market price to move somewhere safer. For families without the means
to do this, however, this means a medical and environmental anguish.
Flint, Michigan is a name that comes to mind when people
think about the destruction of fracking. What many are only beginning to find
out is that Flint is, by census records, the poorest city in the United States5.
Additionally, 54.8% of Flint residents are black, according to the 2010 census6.
Residents of Flint, like Jackie Pemberton, are faced daily with the harsh
reality of being poor in a place contaminated by fracking. She knew what was in
the water and did not want to drink it. However, she eventually had to once her
modest income prevented her from buying uncontaminated water7.
She is not alone in this reality, and the impacts on the health of Flint are
only one city in many that reflect an alarming statistical trend – that
fracking impacts marginalized communities in the United States
disproportionately more than any other type of community.
A study done of Pennsylvania residents, a state wrought with
fracking because of its large shale beds, indicated that of all the communities
surveyed, poor communities had significantly higher fracking exposure rates
than any other communities in Pennsylvania8.
Reasons could be due to the purported job opportunities that fracking promises
to bring or just a general inability to move away from it. Whatever the reason,
when coupled with the health issues and other costs that contaminated communities
bring, fracking ends up bringing more harm than good to poor areas — ones
without the resources to clean up the mess caused by the procedural destruction
of their homes.
Fracking is an American
Americans have a duty to care for their fellow citizens. It
is a value upon which the nation was founded, and it is something to which many
have turned a blind eye. This care now needs to extend to our environment and
Fracking is an environmental issue. We’ve already seen the
way it destroys once-clean water sources and impacts the land. For a source of
energy that is as grossly inefficient as gas, an industry that leaks enough of
its resources to power three million houses yearly9,
the impact on the environment is irreparable. But when it comes to the impact
on American families, it is almost criminal. While focus begins to turn to more
renewable options to power our country, Americans need to say no to fracking
for environmental and societal justice.