Research in Alberta shows that fracking fluids leftover from wells can cause significant harm to rainbow trout, even at low concentrations.
It's well known that the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking can cause serious environmental damage due to its inherent toxicity.
Now researchers in Alberta, Canada have released the findings of a study that shows even a "sub-lethal" amount of the chemicals can cause damage to rainbow trout gills and livers. The big problem comes from transportation and storage of the offending waste.
University of Alberta biologist Greg Goss was quoted as saying, "The real risk comes from the disposal process, where (the fracking companies) have to truck it to a new site or pipeline it to a new site. If we do have a spill, what are the concerns they have to worry about?"
Goss' research indicates that Alberta alone has had some 2,500 spills of the waste between 2011 and 2014. An effect called "oxidative stress" shows that chemicals in the water force the trout's liver and gill cells to age and die more rapidly.
Since the harsh effects of the fracking fluids are exacerbated by sediment, it could also have an effect on organisms living in riverbeds and lake bottoms--a place where some of the trout's favorite and most necessary foods originate.
Goss admits that his study only was only conducted on water from one fracking well source. The companies, by law, don't have to divulge what chemicals they use, but Goss stated that "fluids used in the tests were common enough for the results to be widely applicable."
Creatures like rainbow trout that live in pristine waterways are the canaries in the proverbial coal mine. Mass die-offs, while not applicable in this story (yet), will start the discussions on what is safe and what is not where a possible spill is concerned.
Studies like these will at least keep the conversation going while we try to find a safer, greener way to gather our energy.