Fracking and Organic Agriculture
Organic farms produce food that is high in nutritional value, use less water, replenish soil fertility and do not use pesticides or other toxic chemicals that may get into our food supply or contaminate nearby bodies of water.
In order to maintain their integrity, organic farms have an array of regulations and an extensive accreditation process. There is rising concern about the effect of Oil and Gas activities like fracking can have on organic agriculture.
Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and various chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well. Depending on the types of permits an operation holds, a fracking operation may be allowed to dispose of the waste water created into nearby bodies of water. In other cases leaks simply happen and waste water seeps into surrounding soil or nearby underground water sources.
As of 2015, 11% of organic farms in the United States are within Oil and Gas Regions of Concern (ROC) and the number looks likely to continue increasing.
The five Regions of Concern under most observation are defined as follows:
- Core: Areas where there’s less than 1 mile between fracking wells
- Intermediate: 1-3 miles between fracking wells
- Periphery: 3-5 miles between wells
- Sub-Watershed: 5-10 miles between wells
- Watershed: 10-20 miles between wells
Sharing a watershed with Oil & Gas activity is a concern for a variety of reasons. Such as a complete alteration in soil composition and quality, due to the chemicals being injected. Chemicals like Arsenic, Napthalene (carcinogen in mothballs), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), and Calcium Chloride and many others are in the chemical “cocktails” commonly used in injection wells. These chemicals are also on the USDA’s list of substances prohibited for use in organic crop production. When these substances seep into water supplies or soil they can stay there for decades despite our best reclamation techniques. Wetland soils are particularly vulnerable due to their moisture content and absorbency.
Another fracking concern for soils and landscape is an increase in earthquakes within ROC’s. Ft. Worth, Texas, a region that had seen no seismic activity before disposal wells began operating has had over 60 earthquakes of magnitude 1.5 or greater in the last year according to earthquaketrack.com. Earthquakes of course can cause physical damage to farms and packing facilities leading to loss of product and equipment.
This is all on top of the already existing reports of people and animals getting incredibly sick when exposed to contaminated water within ROC’s. Stories like this do not bode well for organic livestock agriculture.
The effects of fracking on organic agriculture have the potential to be vast and long lasting and certainly warrant close observation.
You can visit websites like fracfocus.org to research what chemicals are being used and what their purpose is.