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Fracking Still Too Risky

Press Release

Fracking Still Too Risky

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has indicated fracking can be safe if the process is properly regulated but Frack Free Aotearoa New Zealand is still calling for a ban on fracking.

Spokesperson Robyn Harris-Iles says the risks of radioactive contamination from fracking in New Zealand have not been properly investigated by any regulatory body or by the Commissioner, Dr Jan Wright, and this is of grave concern considering the potential harm to human and animal health.

“Radioactive isotopes such as radium 226 and radium 224 are present in deep rock formations worldwide. We know radioactive particles are brought to the surface in flowback fluid and sludge in the USA because the correct testing has been carried out there and untreated or partially treated fluids have been discharged into streams and rivers, often upstream from water supply intakes. Reports from the USA Environmental Protection Agency and others show the level of radioactivity in fracking wastewater has sometimes been hundreds or even thousands of times the maximum allowed by the federal standard for drinking water,” said Ms Harris-Iles. “While no-one would be foolish enough to drink the wastewater directly, people in the USA have been exposed to radioactive particles in their water supplies and we want to know if this is happening here.”

Fracking wastewater and sludge has been spread on dairy farms in Taranaki for twenty years but the Taranaki Regional Council does not test ‘landfarm’ sites for barium, strontium, radium 226 or other dangerous radioactive isotopes in land where dairy cows are put to pasture, or in waterways that could be contaminated. Until last year wastewater and sludge in Taranaki was stored in unlined pits where seepage into the groundwater aquifer could occur. Contamination of soil and shallow groundwater has been identified at the Shell Todd Kapuni site to the extent the groundwater can no longer be used for human or animal consumption or for irrigation. While lining wastewater pits might alleviate the problem to some extent, linings can disintegrate or tear and evidence from the USA shows this is not a foolproof method of preventing seepage.

Ms Harris-Iles said her group was disappointed Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) only got a very brief mention in the interim fracking report released yesterday. “Dr Wright said there was no evidence of well casing failure that could cause chemical contamination of aquifers. We say there is no evidence the cement casings are safe and intact in the hundreds of wells drilled in Taranaki and elsewhere in New Zealand since the 1970s. We would like to see evidence that every single oil, gas and wastewater injection well drilled or fracked prior to 2006 is safe because we know the industry used non-acid resistant cements that dissolve over time in contact with low pH fluids,” she said. “Dr Wright believes safety concerns can be addressed with more regulation but how can we regulate the danger of radioactive and chemical contamination entering our land, air, waterways and eventually our foodchain when the arrogant oil industry already ignores regulations designed to protect the environment.”

Frack Free Aotearoa New Zealand is proud to join 17 other groups as a signatory to the Community Joint Statement on Fracking and we vow to continue our fight against this dangerous and destructive industry, while promoting a clean energy future.


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