If you live in the United States, you’ve heard aboutfracking and drilling nightmares. From clouded, dirty water to high cancerrates to death, more and more people are raising their voices about the horrorsof the industry. Its impact on the environment is also undeniable.
Heartbreaking narratives are released each day that document the struggle ofthose impacted by fracking. The Guardian recently reported on VeronicaKronvall, Ponder, Texas resident, whose dream home turned into a health hazardonly four years after purchase. The market price of her home decreaseddrastically, but that was nothing compared to the consistent pain she was infrom nausea, headaches, and nosebleeds.1All this only began to happen after a natural gas company set up wells behindher home. These stories and nightmare living situations are consistent withdrilling and fracking, yet somehow fracking continues to edge its way into Americanbackyards.It leaves many in a state of wonder as to why theseindustries continue to permeate neighborhoods. Although 51% of Americans opposefracking2,a number that has grown in the past few years, the fear that drives thatopposition is the idea that fracking might show up in their backyards. But whodoes that impact? Studies are overwhelmingly showing that the citizens hardesthit by drilling and fracking are poor and marginalized communities.
Fracking’s Impact onthe Health and EnvironmentThe most immediate impact on these communities can bewitnessed in their environment. While there are the less likely hazards ofpotential gas-related explosions, air pollution, and water consumption inplaces that are already water deficient, one of the most noticeable changes inhome environment centers around groundwater3.Contamination of groundwater, often showing itself as murky water that testspositive for heavy metals.
Water will also contain a foul smell and taste. Forfamilies who cannot move, this often means buying gallons of bottled waterweekly – as even showering in water contaminated by fracking can be hazardousto health4.For families with enough money, fracking showing up in their neighborhood is afinancial pain. They must spend gas money to drive and buy uncontaminatedwater, their medical bills often skyrocket from the health issues that theirfamilies face, and for many with the resources, this means selling their housefor a low market price to move somewhere safer. For families without the meansto do this, however, this means a medical and environmental anguish. Fracking andMarginalized CommunitiesFlint, Michigan is a name that comes to mind when peoplethink about the destruction of fracking.
What many are only beginning to findout 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 harshreality of being poor in a place contaminated by fracking. She knew what was inthe water and did not want to drink it.
However, she eventually had to once hermodest income prevented her from buying uncontaminated water7.She is not alone in this reality, and the impacts on the health of Flint areonly one city in many that reflect an alarming statistical trend – thatfracking impacts marginalized communities in the United Statesdisproportionately more than any other type of community.A study done of Pennsylvania residents, a state wrought withfracking because of its large shale beds, indicated that of all the communitiessurveyed, poor communities had significantly higher fracking exposure ratesthan any other communities in Pennsylvania8.Reasons could be due to the purported job opportunities that fracking promisesto 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 communitiesbring, fracking ends up bringing more harm than good to poor areas — oneswithout the resources to clean up the mess caused by the procedural destructionof their homes.Fracking is an AmericanIssueAmericans have a duty to care for their fellow citizens. Itis a value upon which the nation was founded, and it is something to which manyhave turned a blind eye. This care now needs to extend to our environment andour communities.
Fracking is an environmental issue. We’ve already seen theway it destroys once-clean water sources and impacts the land. For a source ofenergy that is as grossly inefficient as gas, an industry that leaks enough ofits resources to power three million houses yearly9,the impact on the environment is irreparable. But when it comes to the impacton American families, it is almost criminal. While focus begins to turn to morerenewable options to power our country, Americans need to say no to frackingfor environmental and societal justice.