Traverse City Record-Eagle

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August 18, 2013

Fracking waste worries grow


Team Services has until month's end to determine how it spread toxic waste on public roads and how to prevent it from happening again. Heuer and Henderson both said company officials are cooperating, but in a recent meeting said they still did not have answers.

The company discontinued brining area dirt roads while they investigate, Heuer said.

Grand Traverse County Road Commission officials last week said they'll drop Team Services as the applicator of dirt road brines. Team Services officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Incidents focus attention on fracking, state oversight

Anti-fracking groups are closely following the Benzie County incident and cite it as another example of the state's alleged lack of industry oversight, particularly since it was discovered that fracking fluids were applied to roads in Cheboygan and Kalkaska counties in 2012. State regulators did not publicly report those incidents.

Hydraulic fracturing, widely known as “fracking,” is a relatively new process in Michigan. Huge volumes of water laced with chemicals and sand are pumped at high pressure into wells to release natural gas trapped in deep underground rock formations.

State regulations make no distinction between brine from standard wells or fracked wells, the latter of which may feature a mix of corrosive and toxic chemicals in water that flows back to the surface.

State records show Encana Oil and Gas Inc. pumped 8.46 million gallons of what it terms "slick" or chemically treated fresh water, 5.3 million pounds of sand, and 90,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid down one Kalkaska County well. In general, from 10 percent to 20 percent of that water initially flows back to the surface, Henderson said. After that, the water and chemical mixture continues to flow back with the gas, but after melding underground with other materials it comes back as chemically altered salt water.

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