This past weekend I had the opportunity to drive across major portions of the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. I used the bathrooms at two rest stops along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and was pleased to see that they had installed waterless urinals. Such units are estimated to conserve about 30,000 gallons per year.
As I left the restroom, I was struck by a major contradiction. Pennsylvania is thoughtfully protecting its precious water resources in these bathrooms while simultaneously putting this same water at grave risk by allowing hydrofracking.
According to National Public Radio, in Pennsylvania there are nearly 6,400 wells being fracked in the state. About 4.3 million gallons of fluid (overwhelmingly water) are injected into each well. This adds up to 27.5 billion gallons of water which is intentionally polluted with the secret mixture of chemicals used by the fracking companies. In addition, the water that comes up from the wells is often radioactive, as much as 300 times more radioactive than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for nuclear plant discharges.
Many Pennsylvania communities have experienced the direct consequences of the massive industrialization that comes with fracking. While money certainly flows through those areas in the short term, the toxins and health problems that accompany them will be circulating long after the cash dries up.
Responding to citizen pressure, New York State has thus far held off the pressure from the fossil fuel industry. Those of you in Pennsylvania are in a much more difficult situation. Nonetheless, the fracking train can and must be stopped. Once we do that we can step up the equally necessary work of moving quickly to the renewable energy future, which is our only prospect for averting the worst consequences of climate change.
The writer is with Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign, an alliance between native peoples and nonnative allies working for justice for native peoples and environmental protection.