An Interview with Jessica Ernst
By Roy L Hales
Unconventional drilling creates a huge amount of waste, some of which is being sprayed onto farmer’s fields. A 2005 report from New Zealand stated cows grazing on “dump farms” have elevated levels of hydrocarbons. “Cows are allowed to graze on land with high levels of hydrocarbons without any punishment and their food products are allowed to go to market without government testing,” a Green Party MP said last year. It is happening in Canada too. The field above is northwest of Calgary. Former energy consultant Jessica Ernst said, “We are eating drilling & fracking waste.”
A Lot Of Drilling Waste
“When they are drilling deep horizontal wells, they go a great distance and this produces a lot of drilling waste. It is toxic. There are a lot of naturally occurring toxics that are brought up. It is often radioactive. I have documentation that the formations they want to frack are radioactive. This comes up with metals and BTEX (Benzene, Tolulene, Ethylbenzyne, Xylenes) carcinogens plus the mystery additives which companies refuse to disclose,” said Ernst.
“About 1.2 barrels of solid waste are created with each foot drilled, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Simply to reach the approximate 8,000-foot depth of a Barnett Shale gas well, drilling creates more than 9,600 barrels, or 403,200 gallons, of solid waste. That does not take into account any horizontal drilling performed after reaching that depth. For the 14,000 Barnett Shale wells drilled so far, the waste would cover the entire city of Fort Worth in more than an inch of drill cuttings, slurry, heavy metals and other toxic compounds.” – Denton Record-Chronicle
The most economical disposal method is to dump the waste on agricultural land. This includes the grasslands, where animals graze, and crop lands. “So, essentially, we will eat the waste coming from the drilling.” Farmers are paid to let let companies spread what they are told is “good fertilizer” on their fields.
Ernst said some farmers eventually stop accepting this fracking waste. Others don’t care and will continue accepting waste on fields that will be used to plant crops.
In Northeastern BC
When she was a consultant, in the conventional oil sector, Ernst observed drilling waste being spread on the leases and access roads in northeast BC.
“This waste is spread onto the muskeg, so eventually it all gets into the water,” said Ernst. “When I worked on the coalbed methane by Encana, in southeast British Columbia, the waste was so expensive to deal with. They did tests. Their waste was killing the fish, and yet they still dumped the waste directly into the waterway there. That’s a prime fishing area, so again people are drinking and eating the waste.”
Allowing The Waste Fluids Into…
“In some jurisdictions they are allowing the waste fluids into ponds or pits they create. Some of the companies are dumping it right into waterways and to community sewer systems. There have been criminal charges laid, there have been lawsuits.There is a massive amount of frack waste in Nova Scotia that came from New Brunswick that has still not been appropriately dealt with,” she said.
The sewer systems, or municipal systems, where these fluids are being dumped are not set up to deal with heavy metals, radioactivity, or heavy amounts of salts. It is creating problems and, “in some cases, fish kills.” The water is also going downstream into other municipalities, so people are “drinking and bathing” in mystery chemicals and other known chemicals.
“Think of it on a Global scale, the massive volumes of waste. Another thing we do is breath the waste because they flare or incinerate these chemicals off. The communities in frack fields are breathing the toxic chemicals, as well as the leaking methane and ethane that isn’t burned properly. A new study found that the air pollution from the fracking is traveling hundreds of miles downwind. So communities and states that are not allowing fracking are breathing the chemicals. to I think as people realize this around the world, there will be more and more (of an) outcry,” said Ernst.