This is a stunning and horrible development:
The natural gas boom gripping parts of the United States has a nasty byproduct: wastewater so salty, and so polluted with metals like barium and strontium, that most states require drillers to get rid of the stuff by injecting it down shafts thousands of feet deep.
But not in Pennsylvania, one of the states at the center of the gas rush. In Pennsylvania, the liquid that gushes from gas wells is only partially treated for substances that could be environmentally harmful, then dumped into rivers and streams from which communities get their drinking water.
In the two years since the frenzy of activity began in the vast underground rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania has been the only state letting its waterways serve as the primary disposal place for huge amounts of wastewater produced by a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. State regulators, initially caught flat-footed, tightened the rules this year for any new water treatment plants, but let existing operations continue discharging water into rivers.
No one is safe from the invisible hand. Drink well water? No problem, they’ll pollute that with seepage from the chemicals they pump into the ground. Drink what we call “city water?” No problem, you can get your barium and strontium when they pollute your drinking water with the chemicals they pump out of the ground into the rivers that feed our water treatment systems.
And when we all have cancer and there are a rash of birth defects in twenty years, we can throw up our hands and wonder how it all happened? Hoocoodanode?