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Environment and Science

Fracking Dumped Millions Of Gallons Of Waste Into The Gulf, According To Report

 Fracking and acidizing in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico (2010 – 2020). Data from BSEE FOIA records (2010-2019) and BSEE.gov 2020.
Fracking and acidizing in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico (2010 – 2020). Data from BSEE FOIA records (2010-2019) and BSEE.gov 2020.

A recent report shows that millions of gallons of waste has been dumped in the Gulf of Mexico through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process blasts water and chemicals into the seafloor to fracture rock and release oil and gas.

The Center for Biological Diversity compiled the data after requesting documents from the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Since 2010, the Center has documented more than 3,000 instances of offshore fracking; 700 cases of acidizing offshore wells, which is injecting hydrofluoric or hydrochloric acid into rock walls to release the fossil fuels; and at least 66.3 million gallons of fracking waste leaked into the Gulf.

Jaclyn Lopez, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Florida director, said there may even be more waste that's unaccounted for.

"Part of the issue is that fracking is not well documented. There's not a separate system for recording how often it's happening and where,” she said. “So, it's likely that it's probably higher than those reports, which these weren't government sanctioned reports, these were industry reports that we found through a Freedom of Information Act records request."

Click here to view the full fracking report from the Center for Biological Diversity

The entire process of fracking has the potential to emit waste, according to Lopez.

"In the stage of boring the initial well itself, there's the water that escapes, and the water in the mixture of the fracking fluid that escapes from that through the production, and then through the closure," Lopez said. “So, at various stages throughout that process, there's the potential for that material to be entering into the Gulf of Mexico."

She said companies extract oil and gas from the earth using a chemical cocktail, which is often very acidic. Chemicals used in offshore fracking and acidizing pose significant health risks to both humans and wildlife — including cancer, reproductive harm, neurotoxicity and even death, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“It happens in the Gulf of Mexico, where we do you have so many sensitive species, and that does also present a human health risk factor,” Lopez said.

Fracking mainly occurs offshore of Louisiana and Texas, since the eastern part of the Gulf, near Florida, is largely off the table to oil and gas companies.

But Lopez says Florida can still be impacted by fracking next door.

“It’s a huge body of water and 66 million gallons over the course of 10 years may, in the context of the entire Gulf of Mexico, seem like not that big of a deal. But the reality is, it's highly concentrated in this industrialized sacrifice zone of the Gulf of Mexico,” Lopez said.

“If you were to look at a map of where all these oil and gas wells are, they're pretty densely concentrated in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which is habitat used by our nesting sea turtles by several species of endangered and threatened whales.”

After compiling all this information, Lopez said she is not aware of any immediate plans to file a lawsuit. However, she said advocates plan to use it when talking to lawmakers about adding more protective measures.

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