Sixteen cattle were found dead after apparently ingesting a mysterious fluid next to a natural gas drilling rig in northwestern Louisiana throughout the last week of April 2009. A worker for the Chesapeake Energy Company reported that the gushing green fluids near the rig were being used in hydraulic fracturing, a process used to fragment rock in order to release natural gas. Hydraulic fracturing requires that water, sand, and chemicals be pumped at a high-pressure underground, a process that makes drilling more efficient and cost effective.
However, this type of drilling is a controversial process because it does not have to comply with regulations set up in the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure the quality of American’s drinking water. Environmental scientists worry that this process has the potential to contaminate drinking water and are putting pressure on Congress to pass legislation ensuring that these chemicals do not poison people. Because of many companies’ refusal to release information regarding the exact type and amount of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, it is difficult for Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency to accurately assess the risks involved in this process. If scientists at the US Geological Survey determine that the cows died in response to fluids used in hydraulic fracturing, the Environmental Protection Agency will push for more restrictions to ensure that humans do not share in the same fate.
Lustgarten, Abraham. “16 Cattle Drop Dead Near Mysterious Fluid at Gas Drilling
Site.” ProPublica. N.p., 30 Apr. 2009. Web. 13 Nov. 2009. <http://www.propublica.org/article/16-cattle-drop-dead-near-mysterious-fluid-at-gas-drilling-site-430>.
Student Researchers: Jillian Harbin & Abbey Wilson
Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley, Associate Professor of Media Studies, DePauw University
Evaluator: Tim Cope, Department of Geosciences, DePauw University