Fracking is one of the most controversial forms of fossil fuel extraction techniques in common use around the world. The continued use of fracking in the U.K. has been called into question with the first site in operation at Preston New Road brought to an end by tremors associated with the use of fracking equipment. However, one aspect of the fuel extraction technique not often considered is that of the silica sand that is vital to the process taking place effectively. There are two potential impacts to consider when it comes to silica sand and the environment, the first is the sand used in fracking and the second is the impact of mining of various communities.
Frac sand mining
The environmental impact of frac sand mining has been measured by researchers in Western Wisconsin where the abundance of silica sand has been noted by fracking companies. Thomas W. Pearson is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout who released a book detailing how silica mining has affected parts of Wisconsin. In an interview with Failure Magazine, the researcher explains the landscape of the state is being destroyed by mining companies who are removing vast quantities of material.
In the majority of communities in Western Wisconsin, the mining of silica sand is a major issue because of the fact many communities were not prepared for the impact on the economy. The mining of sand has developed to a large extent but many communities did not place caps on the amount of silica sand removed at any time.
Silica sand and the fracking process
Fracking is a controversial enough process without the problem of silica sand and its impact on the environment. In terms of the workers exposed to silica sand exposure which has reached dangerous levels, according to Earthworks. Some studies have revealed the level of silica particles in the atmosphere at five sites across the U.S. are far higher than those recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.
You may question why the exposure to silica is such an important issue for the thousands of workers involved in the mining and use of silica sand. Continued exposure to silica has been linked to a variety of health issues, including the development of lung cancer and other lung diseases.
The health impacts of silica sand use are accompanied by water issues caused by the need to wash the silica sand before it is used in the fracking process. This water containing chemicals and contaminants harmful to the environment are then flushed into groundwater supplies damaging rivers and reservoirs.
The development of fracking has caused major issues for the environment. The majority of silica sand comes from Wisconsin and Minnesota where local governments have been introducing bans on mining facilities. There are many health problems associated with exposure to frac sand that is causing concern among lawmakers and environmentalists around the world.