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Fracking the Great Lakes

Lois Gibbs
Eco Watch / News Analysis
Published: Sunday 25 November 2012
“The lakes are improving and slowly cleaning themselves up.”
Article image

The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. The good news is that legacy contaminants are decreasing more quickly than previously reported in three of the Great Lakes, but have stayed virtually the same in two other lakes, according to new research. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the pesticide DDT and other banned compounds dropped about 50 percent in fish in Lakes Michigan, Ontario and Huron from 1999 through 2009, although there were no significant changes in Lakes Superior and Erie fish, according to the study to be published this month in Science of the Total Environment.

“These are very positive results. The lakes are improving and slowly cleaning themselves up,” said Thomas Holsen, co-director of Clarkston University’s Center for the Environment and co-author of the study. “Even with the decreases, it will be 20 to 30 years until the decades-old contaminants in Great Lakes fish decline to the point that consumption advisories can be eliminated,” Holsen said.

All good news, except as we clean up the old chemicals like Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), the pesticide DDT and other banned compounds they are being replaced by newer ones, such as flame retardants that are building up in fish and wildlife and chemicals we are not yet even looking for from oil and gas development.

Today, the natural gas industry is beginning horizontal hydraulic fracturing all around the Great Lakes to extract gas. It is against the law to frack under the lakes but there are no laws about fracking near streams, creeks, rivers that empty into the lakes. This is insane. Hundreds of toxic chemicals are injected under pressure into the ground to fracture the shale formation. Not all of these chemicals are retrieved after the fracking is done. In fact the common gas well leaves behind about 30 percent of the chemicals, radioactive materials and brine. It’s unbelievable, hundreds of chemicals injected all around our fresh water lakes that both the U.S. and Canada have worked for decades to clean up.

This destructive activity is a prime example of governments’ tunnel vision. Oil and gas development moves forward, cleanup of the lakes moves forward, air deposited of chemicals from many sources continues. It’s like shoveling the sidewalk in a blizzard, it won’t be cleaned until the snow stops falling. There is no sign of the chemical blizzards retreat.

I grew up near the lakes in Buffalo and understand their beauty and value. My sister and brother-in-law were active in advocating the cleanup of the lakes in the 1970’s. Our family vacationed on the lakes. It was exciting back then to hear that a serious effort from both sides of the boarder would advance to make the lakes swimmable, the fish safe enough to eat and so many other promises. Now more than 35 years later reports are praising the cleanup of historical chemical deposits while at the same time new chemicals are allowed to enter the lakes without protest.

Fracking is not yet widespread around the great lakes. Yes there are some wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, but we can stop widespread fracking that would further contribute chemicals to our beautiful lakes by taking a stand and insisting that regulations are put in place and bans where necessary to protect this amazing gift of nature. It is up you and me to make it happen.

ABOUT Lois Gibbs

Lois Gibbs is a contributor of

Weatherman's picture

West central Michigan is

West central Michigan is either currently or in the near future targeted for some of the deepest fracking wells thus far. Huge amounts of petro-dollars accompanying the rape and pillage attitude offer the potential to destroy many wells, streams, rivers and lakes. In Pennsylvania; wells get drilled, the gas gets pumped out, transported, with very little concern for the residents or benefit to the state.
It's all about the money.

That concurs with what I've

That concurs with what I've heard about PA - NY residents have organized very effectively to keep fracking from doing there what it's done in PA. And no doubt, it's all about the money. The only recourse at this point is people organizing against it, since the federal gov has its hands tied: Fracking interests have arranged to have legislation passed to prevent federal intervention on the grounds that each state has different geology.

Very insightful Thanks for

Very insightful Thanks for sharing and not ranting.

"Third way" Democrats and

"Third way" Democrats and Teapublicans care nothing about the environment.

That's an idiotic comment.

That's an idiotic comment. Every sensible person cares about the environment because everyone has to drink water and breath the air. It's when liberal politicians use the environment to gain power and grow government that thinking people become weary and suspicious of their motives. Fracking has not been a problem because it is properly managed by the private sector. The best way to maintain a clean environment is through capitalism because capitalism creates wealth, making clean up affordable.

"The best way to maintain a

"The best way to maintain a clean environment is through capitalism because capitalism creates wealth, making clean up affordable." "That's an idiotic comment." Mr B , you got your first and last sentences in reverse order but I straightened it out for you. However the content of the sentences in between strongly suggest that you have that common neocon malady known as COAC -- Cranial Occlusion of the Ascending Colon. This certainly prevents you from seeing the real world, as is more accurately described in the other replies. Please see your doctor and cease watching Fux News immediately!

Lake Erie, the lake that

Lake Erie, the lake that burned (technically the Cuyahoga River)

Love Canal and the other Superfund Clean Up sites

PCB contamination by Westinghouse in Central Indiana.

These, dear Mister B, are just three of the 10's of thousands of environmental disasters made possible by unrestrained capitalism in the 40's, 50's, and 60's (i.e., no EPA, no environmental regulation, no environmental awareness). In each instance, those companies that caused the pollution made a great deal of wealth as your theory suggests. In each instance, it was not the corporations that paid for the clean-up costs, but rather the American taxpayer. And clean-up is only the least of the problems this Let Them Self Regulate approach has caused . . . loss of life through cancer, loss of income and assests through forced relocation and/or inability to sell due to contamination, destruction of communities, etc., etc., etc. You should read more about fracking . . . those that live with fracking might dispute your assertion that "[f]racking has not been a problem because it is properly managed by the private sector" . . . I suppose being able to light one's water on fire as it comes from the tap is a stunning example of good management . . . so too is the fracking companies' forced provision of potable drinking water to residents whose wells are contaminated by fracking effluence . . . and of course, folks need methane "neutralizing" equipment on their wells to keep them from exploding because of the proper management by the private fracking sector . . . .

Mr. B., things do not work

Mr. B., things do not work how you said. Most decent people were raised that they were to leave things better off than how you found them. But for some reason, companies believe they have no environmental responsibility. They believe they can dump and emit anything they want.

Fracking is a huge problem and private industry is NOT managing it properly. There are HAZMAT ponds that are contaminating ground and water. The fracking operations need millions of millions of gallons and water. This is being taken from pristine ground waters. These ground waters feed the streams, that feed the rivers, that feed the Great Lakes. Michigan also has some rather unique geology. There are large super salty ground water "lakes". Tap into that and the "fresh" water will be forever contaminated. This happened in the 1970's in the Saginaw Valley.

If capitalism really did work, there would still be paper mills in lower Michigan and our water would be nearly pure by now. Creating wealth does nothing to assist in clean up. You need to generate revenue then invest it by SPENDING. Wealth is nothing more than the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions.

Amen to all that, JELTEZ42:

Amen to all that, JELTEZ42: Capitalism is fine, but without regulation and oversight, corporations and individuals do what they want. I believe we call that human nature, and it's why we have a government.

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