Imagine turning on your faucet one day and having the water that flows out of the tap catch fire.
Sound like science fiction? In fact, it isn’t at all, which is one reason a series of environmental groups have joined together to support a petition to stop the process of fracking.
Fracking is a process in which a fluid is injected at high pressure into oil or methane gas deposits to fracture the rock and release the liquid or gas below. It is a controversial process that has been used around the world, but may soon be employed in the Sarnia area and have a direct impact on the environment in the Forest City.
That possible impact is why Cortney Dakin, a self-described student activist and the former president of the Environmental Science Association who is working with the group Climate Justice London, said Londoners should become aware of how environmentally hazardous this process can be.
“They drill holes where they put explosives to create fractures in the rock. There are usually like half a dozen explosions where they can then pump chemicals into these fractures in hopes of pumping out the natural gas,” Dakin said.
“The fractures are really unpredictable because they are into the bedrock. So they hit little pools of methane gas. It can bubble out into shallow aquifers above the bedrock, which is where you get into issues of polluting your drinking water.”
The possible contamination to local ground water — and yes, the possibility of even making it flammable — is why Climate Justice London and other groups are supporting a petition to ban this process.
“We are looking for the city to take a bit more of a precautionary approach. At least consider a moratorium of the procedure. But ideally, we want to encourage them to ban the process in this region,” Dakin said.
“The biggest thing right now is still awareness. It is crazy how many people don’t know this is happening or is even on the table. This is the first step.”
The petition is available online through the Stop Fracking Ontario website where as of last week nearly 200 people have already signed on. Dakin said there is also a printed copy of the petition on the community bulletin board at the Western Fair District.
Dakin said the petition is just one way to educate people about this controversial process.
“We believe the local level is the best way to address these issues. Whatever our municipal governments have control over, we would hope they would ban it,” Dakin said.
Toban Black agrees with Dakin and also wants to see Londoners take up the issue.
Black, a member of Climate Justice London since 2009, said the environmental impact of fracking cannot be minimized.
“The main concern is water pollution, partly because of all the chemicals that have been injected into wells and the inability to ensure none of those will get into the surrounding water table,” Black said.
“There are hundreds of chemicals used in these wells and many of them are dangerous. There are also underground substances that get dislodged. That includes radium and methane.”
And while these various environmentally toxins create issues for everything from drinking water to the air we breathe, Black said fracking is keeping the world from finding more sustainable solutions.
“There are many strategies that can be brought together to take away our reliance on fossil fuels. In terms of alternatives, the list goes on, but we need to be turning towards more sustainable, local options that don’t require natural gas,” Black said.
“Aside from this fracking issue, natural gas is a finite resource. It is going to take a lot of effort, dialogue and preparation, so we should be starting to look at alternatives as soon as possible.”