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David Lawlor's blog

Bombs, nuclear power plants and groundwater. What do they all have in common? Well, according to a new study published by the University at Buffalo (UB), the answer could soon be uranium.  

The study conducted by UB geologist Tracy Bank shows that hydraulic fracture drilling, or fracking, in the Marcellus shale deposit on the East Coast of the United States will result in the pollution of groundwater with uranium. Bank found that naturally occurring uranium trapped in Marcellus shale is released into groundwater following hydraulic fracturing, a practice of pumping high-pressured water and chemicals into rock formations to break up and release elements; in this case, natural gas.

Explains Bank:

"We found that the uranium and the hydrocarbons are in the same physical space...that they are not just physically—but also chemically—bound. That led me to believe that uranium in solution could be more of an issue because the process of drilling to extract the hydrocarbons could start mobilizing the metals as well, forcing them into the soluble phase and causing them to move around."

Bank’s hypothesis proved correct once samples of Marcellus shale were tested in the laboratory. The implications of the study are significant.Polluting groundwater with uranium, a toxic metal and radioactive element, could cause serious human health impacts if the uranium made its way into municipal drinking water systems or emitted toxic radon gas near communities.

It seems the oil and gas drilling industry would rather not acknowledge the water pollution associated with hydraulic fracturing. Which is why Earthjustice is fighting on Capitol Hill to close a loophole exempting the industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, challenging backroom deals between government regulators and the oil and gas industry, and fighting for the strongest possible regulations to protect clean air and water supplies.

Elementary school children are notorious for calling out new rules during games of handball on the playground. “No waterfalls!” “I call no handsies!”

The United Kingdom’s new Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme seems to be employing similar logic as it proclaims: “No paybacks!”

Following the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the idea of continuing deep water drilling sounded more than dubious. But, Interior Sec. Ken Salazar apparently found the idea perfectly sensible when he lifted the deep water drilling moratorium earlier this month, just weeks after the gushing BP well was finally shut down.

The Global Work Party organized by environmental activist Bill McKibben and his 350.org campaign may be the answer to life, the universe and everything.

In October 2009, the 350.org campaign orchestrated more than 5,000 rallies urging political leaders to make meaningful progress on climate change. The success of last year’s day of action spawned this year’s Global Work Party that takes place on a day with numerological significance.

In binary code (a computer system using the binary digits ‘0’ and ‘1’ to relay instructions), 10/10/10 translates to the number 42, which in the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is offered up by the supercomputer Deep Thought as the “answer to life, the universe and everything.” The numbers have additional significance concerning the 10:10 climate change campaign.

And, speaking of numbers, why 350.org? The moniker refers to 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, the number scientists have determined is the planet’s limit if significant climate change is to be averted.

Work party events are scheduled at locations globally, including throughout the United States. Those interested in taking part can check the 350.org site for work party locations in their area or register to host their own event. The 350.org campaign takes a sensible view of the event’s impact while stressing its overall importance. Their website explains:

The goal of the day is not to solve the climate crisis one project at a time, but to send a pointed political message: if we can get to work, you [government leaders] can get to work too--on the legislation and the treaties that will make all our work easier in the long run.

Word up.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.