On Nov. 21, the Delaware River Basin Commission, comprising representatives from four states (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) and the federal government, will vote on whether to allow the intensive method of natural-gas drilling in the river's watershed. The watershed, which supplies drinking water for more than 15 million people, overlaps the eastern end of the Marcellus Shale, an underground geological formation touted as the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas."
Richard Young, a geology professor at the State University of New York at Geneseo, calls the buffers "ridiculous." In fracking, he says, water is pumped underground at pressures of 15,000 pounds per square inch, capable of lifting an 8,000-foot column of rock. This would force the gas and the chemicals used up into fractures in the earth, where they then would inevitably wind up in groundwater.
"There's lots of faults and fractures in New York State that nobody has mapped. Once you start pressurizing them, there's no controlling where things go," he explains. "The cleanup costs would be astronomical even if you could do it. Once you contaminate water underground over a broad area, there's nothing you can do about it. There's no bailout plan."
When people can't live in their home because the water is destroyed, they can't sell it either, so they are desperate-and gas companies demand silence as part of the settlement.
I know the picture is small, but this is the extent, throughout the east, of the wells so far.