This year’s National Hunting and Fishing Day Celebrations in northern and southern Illinois were a great opportunity for Illinois Chapter Sierra Club staff and volunteers to engage the public on many water-centric issues in Illinois. Armed with buttons, stickers, flyers, and fact sheets our volunteers and staff cast their lines and reeled in a sizable audience to discuss the difficulties of keeping our Illinois waters happy and healthy.
At the Northern Illinois show, Sierra Club staff largely focused on the increasingly pressing issue of the Asian carp, which are slowly-yet-surely advancing up the Illinois River towards Lake Michigan. We were particularly delighted to meet so many young fisherwomen and men who were very knowledgeable about the problem. Attendees were interested to hear about the Sierra Club’s support of permanent separation between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins via our Healthy Water Solutions (HWS) coalition, and were very concerned about the inevitable consequences if the Asian carp successfully enter the Lakes. We were excited to garner additional support for our coalition, and to raise public awareness of aquatic invasive species problematic throughout the state (visit the coalition website for more information).
High-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and gas was the focus of the Club’s booth at the Southern Illinois event. Fracking, which is poised to take place across much of downstate Illinois, poses threats to fresh water at every stage of operation. Over 150 people showed their support for the Club’s position on fracking by signing a postcard to their legislator asking him/her to support a moratorium on fracking to allow the Department of Natural Resources time to review the environmental impacts of fracking and the state time to review, develop and establish potential regulations that will adequately safeguard our water and environment.
Many thanks to all the people who stopped by our booths in northern and southern Illinois and showed support for clean water and a healthy environment for our families, our wildlife and our future.
Hydraulic Fracturing Background Information
Industry is proposing to use high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing to reach oil and/or natural gas in the New Albany Shale. After drilling into the shale, which is located between 4,000 to 5,000 feet down, the well bore is then drilled horizontally for up to a mile. Following the drilling the well is then “completed” or “fracked.” Fracking is process in which water, sand and toxic chemicals (fracking fluid) are injected into the well at high pressure to create small cracks in the rock that allow natural gas to freely flow to the surface.
Each well uses between 2 to 8 million gallons of fresh water taken from our lakes and aquifers. Since one well is often fracked up to 18 times and there could be one well for every forty acres of land within the New Albany Shale, this amounts to an enormous quantity of fresh water taken out of the system.
Additionally, an estimated 30% to 70% of the fracking fluid will resurface, bringing back with it toxic substances that are naturally present in underground oil and gas deposits, as well as the chemicals used in the fracking fluid. Industry is proposing to store this toxic brew in open evaporation pits until it can be hauled away in tanker trucks to deep injection wells. Spills and leaks throughout this process are inevitable, putting wells, farm ponds, streams, lakes, and aquifers and the people, pets, livestock and wildlife that use them at great risk.
In some areas, after a well has been fracked, people’s well water has become contaminated by chemicals (some radioactive) that migrate into aquifers through natural fissures and/or possibly through abandoned wells.