News-Press

October 13, 2016

 

Fracking continues to threaten Collier water

Jennifer Hecker

http://www.news-press.com/story/opinion/2016/10/13/fracking-continues-threaten-collier-water/91988970/

 

Fracking at the Collier-Hogan well in 2013 is continuing to threaten Collier County’s water supplies.

Approximately a week ago, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a troubling warning letter to Dan A. Hughes Co., outlining that the company had illegally dumped waste from its fracking operation down the Hogan well, putting our Southwest Florida groundwater at even greater risk of contamination.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida immediately reviewed, along with our technical and legal experts, all of the supporting documents and found a myriad serious problems. The overwhelming evidence of failures in the well construction, lack of adequate groundwater monitoring and the insufficiency of remedial action are alarming.

This situation underscores how risky and irresponsible it is to use these techniques without any independent scientific evaluation as to their potential risks and impacts on Florida’s unique geology and hydrology.

The bottom line is that we are just as much at risk today as we were in 2013 when the well was fracked. These unproven oil well stimulation treatments involving the underground injection of toxic chemicals (fracking and matrix acidizing) are still legally allowed without the state having the express authority to restrict or prohibit their usage. They can still occur without the local government or the public being notified or having the ability to obtain any information about them, due to drillers exploiting a trade secret public records exemption to have that information withheld from the public.

The legislation that was introduced and failed last year would have caused more harm than good, as it would have excluded the most common fracking-like technique, matrix acidizing, while removing existing local governmental authorities’ ability to stop irresponsible drilling activities.

Collier County residents should immediately engage to protect themselves and the water supplies we rely upon. We need to collectively advocate for the following:

·         DEP to immediately resume ongoing deep groundwater testing at the Hogan well site to monitor for any potential migration of contaminants into underground water supply sources.

·         Collier County to add a legislative priority that all oil well stimulation treatments be immediately suspended, and a three-year independent study be undertaken to fully evaluate all potential risks and impacts. Additionally, Collier County should state it would strongly oppose any legislation that reduces or eliminates any of its home rule authorities to restrict or prohibit inappropriate oil and gas activities in our community.

·         State legislators to introduce and pass a suspension and study bill to immediately stop the use of these well stimulation treatments and to commission an independent neutral entity, such as an academic institution, to undertake the comprehensive study.

·         By attending the upcoming Collier County Commission meeting on Oct. 25 and contacting state legislators, citizens can create the political will needed to stop inappropriate oil activities in our community.

Additionally, to learn more about this important emerging potential threat to our water and quality of life, we encourage everyone to attend the second Florida Fracking Summit at Florida Gulf Coast University on Nov. 2, a free public event featuring national experts.

To register for the summit, please go to www.flfrackingsummit.org. To learn more about what you can do, visit www.conservancy.org/oil.

Jennifer Hecker is director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, based in Naples.