Wednesday, October 27, 2010


A slightly different version of this article appeared recently in the letters column in the Hampshire Review. So far, I haven't seen any responses. Too bad, because this is a subject that needs some local discussion. -MH

In case you aren't aware, the incidence of earthquakes in Marcellus Shale areas of West Virginia, not seismically known for earthquakes, has surprisingly increased recently, counter to our regular geologic timeframe. Since early April, more than eight earthquakes have been recorded in Braxton County, with two more in nearby Lewis and Upshur counties. Those seismic events ranged in magnitude from 2.2 to 3.4, not strong enough to cause significant structural damage, but powerful enough to rattle shelves and awaken sleepers.

Ronald Martini, Marshall geology professor, addressed the topic of unusual local earthquakes when he said, "It is quite possible that these earthquakes result from fluid injection. Drilling in the MarcellusShale for natural gas in northern West Virginia has involved hydrofracking of horizontal natural gas wells” [with unknown millions of gallons of unknown toxic fluids under immense pressure per square inch] “essentially lubricating the frictional resistance to movement along the fault zone, allowing the fault to slip more readily.”
Current natural gas production techniques endanger our pristine waters by shaking up the topography, even of our neighbors without their permission. The infrastructure of the natural gas drilling process will eventually jeopardize the sanctity of everybody's inalienable right to clean water.
Inasmuch as the above is evidentiary, safe and clean drinking water is a human right and a primary component in our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Water cannot morally be a commodity for exhorbitant profit. The cost of treated tap water in WV averages a penny a gallon. An equivalent amount of bottled water averages $4.00 a gallon. The Wall Street Journal said 47.8% of the most common type of bottled water sold by retailers comes from city tap water. Feel ripped off?
Fracking our topography should be freaking us out. Bottled water prices can only escalate. Municipal water systems will have to raise their prices, too. Eventually, our kids will need to confront their catastrophic choice of sacrifices: water or carbon-based fuels. Many postulations currently exist about what global human life will be like without sufficient water or carbon-based fuel.
Consciously permitting "waterquakes" to destroy our elixir of life only certifies our sometimes blinding human stupidity.

-Bill Arnold

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