What the Frac?

frac pic

As many of us know, hydraulic fracturing has become controversial practice within our nation. The process itself has many negative environmental impacts. However, what most people do not know is that it also requires the use of a special type of sand (silica) in order to properly fracture and extract the oil from the sediment. Acquiring this sand has caused an uproar within communities of the Chicagoland area. Frac sand mining is detrimental to the biological diversity of the land as well as the close-knit communities that they disrupt. Often times the mining companies purchase farmland that has belonged to individual owners for years, create temporary jobs for local residents, and make a promise to leave the area in good condition. Very consistently these promises are not upheld. In regards to public health, frac sand is extremely dangerous for the respiratory system. Midwest Environmental Advocates stated the following: “Frac sand mines and processing facilities emit air pollutants such as fine particulate matter that may include crystalline silica dust. Fine particulate matter travels deep into the lungs and causes serious respiratory and cardiovascular problems and studies show that this dust causes cancer in mine workers. Particulate matter made of crystalline silica causes silicosis, a deadly and incurable lung disease.The DNR currently does not require facilities to monitor for the smallest and most dangerous particulate matter, including silica dust, and has refused to set more stringent limits.”

One of the first courses of action to combat this problem would be the national development and investment of renewable fuel resources. On a more local level, municipalities should take a deeper approach when it comes to social sustainability. Perhaps a simple research study could be conducted to determine the environmental, economic, and social impacts that a particular mine might leave behind years after the company has left. Once this is done, officials can conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine if the mine is worth allowing. Several states are struggling with this same issue and a small town in Minnesota has looked for different avenues to combat the mining companies strong cases. This article highlights plans to stand up against a proposed mine in rural MN “…a process to create state level pollution standards; an in-depth environmental study that will help us look at the cumulative effects on a larger scale and most importantly a moratorium while that is being done. This is a common sense approach that protects our community from the outside investors wanting to force this industry into our community” (winonadailynews.com). When local governments put the citizens first we see greater improvements towards sustainability. Citizens have the right to be provided with a safe and clean environment to live in. Once the general public feels healthy and safe, economic growth will come with time.




2 thoughts on “What the Frac?

  1. This is an interesting angle to the fracturing debate. I have not heard about use of silica or about how it is obtained. I have always assumed fracturing was a pretty nasty process and haven’t paid much attention to the details. I have a feeling it would take much more than just a “simple research study” to “determine the environmental, economic, and social impacts that a particular mine might leave behind”, especially when well-funded energy/mining companies can produce studies of their own which will support their claims. Are rural towns going to have the resources available to conduct these studies?


  2. I have been against fracking for some time now. I do not believe that the benefits it provides (i.e. jobs, an alternative to the non-renewable sources we have now) are really worth the health and environmental effects of it. Just like when people were finding gold in the West during the 1800s, fracking often creates “ghost towns” or towns that pop up almost overnight due to the fracking business, but are unsustainable so they only last a few years. Here is an article I found about it:


    Fracking is also terrible for the environment as it good seriously damage our water sources, and in the current dire situation we are in, water should not be messed with. I agree with you that we should abandon fracking altogether and focus solely on renewable energy sources like solar or wind. We have the potential to power this whole world on solar alone.


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