And Not A Drop ………….
Michael Maynard
September 13, 2013

Fracking to retrieve hard to get oil and gas reserves is destroying water supplies.


Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

I didn’t realize how fortunate I was growing up. My home town of North Adams, Mass was rated in the Top 10 in drinking water taste in the world. Much like professional wine and food taste experts, there are professional water tasters. A group came out to the Berkshires to sample the water from an artesian well in Clarksburg and found the water to be ‘superb’. Thirty years later, the town, like many cities and towns did, put fluoride in the drinking water to help prevent tooth decay and cavities in children. The North Adams water now tastes terrible, almost undrinkable.

A 2006 study by the National Research Council , commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, stated that the upper recommended limit of fluoride was too high for children’s bodies to absorb and recommended lowering the upper limit.

Another study, done in 2012 by the Environmental Health Perspectives’ journal states that links between high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in China’s drinking water, and other places throughout the world, lowers the average IQ in children by 7 points. This study also summarized results from 27 similar studies, 26 which showed this correlation.

A report in the Scientific American, “Second Thoughts About Fluoride”, by Dan Fagin, director of the Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting program at New York University, states that the overall risk/reward of adding fluoride to the drinking water, since it naturally occurs in other sources, such as various beverages, has not been thoroughly evaluated.

Two years ago, I had a different, but unsettling experience with my supply of water. My neighborhood also has a large natural aquifer, like North Adams does, and the taste of the water from it is very good. However, the private sector owner of the land died. His business, ironically named Whitewater, was just breaking even, though the residents of my neighborhood were paying over $200 per month for the water. We were paying a large premium – the average monthly water bill throughout the cities and towns of Massachusetts was approximately $50.

His widow did not want to run the business, nor did she want to sell it, even though there were potential buyers. Ultimately, she sold the land to a residential developer. This excellent water supply and the modern pumping facility remain unused today. The Town of Stow “government” stated that it did not “want to be in the water business”, so it would not take over operations, even though this water source could also provide all the water needed by new housing, inudstrial, and shopping development, too

My neighbors and I had to scramble quickly because our water source was going to be gone within 6 months. We were forced to dig wells in our yards and take over our own water management. Any service provider remotely associated with water provision became very busy, very quickly. I had to contract with more than 15 vendors: well digging, tree cutting, earth moving, plumbing, electrical, water filtration service product vendors, erc. The overall cost per neighbor ranged from $8,000 to $20,000+. And where would we get the money to pay for all this, since it’s in the middle of the recession, many are looking for work, and the rest didn’t plan for this expenditure? Fortunately, our state representative, the remarkable Kate Hogan, and our redoubtable state senator, Jamie Eldridge, managed to get legislation passed where we cold get 20 year loans at 2% interest from the state, payable through our local property taxes. Yes, my local town government is getting a cut, after doing nothing to help us.

While some of my friends in the neighborhood have had no problem with their new water systems, I’ve had nothing but trouble, particularly since our original product reseller/installer bailed out of supporting his customers in this area. It’s an ongoing hassle to ensuring is an adequate salt level in the filter canister, having to rest the filtration schedule settings when there is a power outage, and finding a new vendor to support the filtration equipment. With the loan repayment and interest fees, equipment maintenance costs and vendor support costs, I’m paying even more money now per month for my low usage of water than the exorbitant amount I was paying previously. And that does not include my time spent on all the maintenance.

But I’m lucky, unlike the residents of Barnhart, Texas, who woke up one morning, turned on their showers and tap water, and nothing came out. While the town and the surrounding area is flush with oil drilling revenues, it has run out of water. You can live longer without food, than you can without water.

It seems that the town’s water supply has been drained by the use of fracking techniques to extract the oil. Fracking, involves the pumping of water to create underground pressure to release oil and shale.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth. Fracking makes it possible to produce natural gas extraction in shale plays that were once unreachable with conventional technologies. Recent advancements in drilling technology have led to new man-made hydraulic fractures in shale plays that were once not available for exploration. In fact, three dimensional imaging helps scientists determine the precise locations for drilling

Yes, and fracking also uses a lot of water and the chemicals used pollutes town drinking waters, too. Like what happened to these people in Pennsylvania.

As to be expected, the big money interests of the oil and gas industry are fighting back with their own mainstream media blitz.

The recently released study, titled “America’s New Energy Future: The Unconventional Oil & Gas Revolution and the US Economy,received widespread media attention on Thursday. The report, conducted by consulting group IHS CERA, was commissioned by multiple fossil fuel organizations that stand to benefit from growth in the oil and gas industry. According to the report, the increase in unconventional oil and natural gas extraction has added an average of $1,200 in discretionary income to each US household in 2012, and now supports 1.2 million jobs — projected to increase to 3.3 million by 2020. These figures are much larger than the findings of many previous economic studies….

However, multiple major news outlets, including Reuters, CNBC,, and the Los Angeles Times, covered the new report with no mention of its financial ties to the industry. The research was monetarily supported by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council, the Natural Gas Supply Association, and others who stand to gain economically from an unregulated increase in fracking….

Bloomberg, which did disclose the report’s industry ties, reported that the IHS report didn’t take potential environmental impacts from extracting unconventional oil and gas through drilling and fracking, such as groundwater contamination and strains on water resources, into account.

UPDATE (9/10/13): The Wall Street Journal joined the slew of coverage that failed to disclose the report’s oil and gas industry funding, in an editorial published on Tuesday. The WSJ editorial claimed the IHS report was “evidence” that fracking “may be the country’s best antipoverty program.” The Wall Street Journal has published editorials downplaying the risks of fracking before.,”

Yes, those good samaritans, the Koch Brothers, have a very big stake in the oil and gas industry. More about the Koch Brothers and their energy industry businesses and “research foundations” in future articles.

Of course, nothing is going to help the good citizens of Barnhart, Texas, who have oil and gas everywhere, but not a drop of water to drink.

Columnist/Journalist/Writer/Book Editor Co-Founder/CEO of Azimuth Partners, high tech consulting firm for 30+ years. Former columnist for the Washington Post/Newsweek syndicate.

2 Comment on “And Not A Drop ……….

  1. Pingback: Yes, I Was Born This Way | MICHAEL MAYNARD

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