Health should take priority over jobs, profits

Health should take priority over jobs, profits by Stephen F. Kotch Jr., February 9, 2014, Lethbridge Herald

To all persons involved in the proposed drilling/fracking in west Lethbridge:

Having researched oil, gas, coal, lumber and agriculture Industries since 1956, I have garnered enough knowledge vis-a-vis drilling and fracking to know the inevitable damage those processes cause to the environment.

Water quality is always compromised, rendering it unusable forever, once contaminated by the poison chemicals used to fracture the rock and/or shale several thousands of feet below the surface of the earth.

The Oldman River and tributaries will fall victim to this project, thus not only affecting west Lethbridge, but all communities, farms and ranches served by those rivers.

The water will not be healthy to drink, cook with, bathe in, quench farm animals and those in the wild, nor irrigate flora.

Jobs and profits to benefactors cannot be factored into the equation, when human lives are at stake.

I believe that approval of an application to drill/frack anywhere in the City of Lethbridge and anywhere in Lethbridge County should be considered an act of criminal Intent to harm innocent unsuspecting human and all other forms of life in southern Alberta.

Please do not approve Goldenkey’s application, nor that of any other company, and, in fact, please cancel their leases everywhere in southern Alberta.

11 Responses to “Health should take priority over jobs, profits”

George McCrea says:
February 9, 2014 at 8:23 AM
Interesting article:

Rural Alberta says:
February 9, 2014 at 2:08 PM
Yes, it’s really interesting how the “1% of water use” number is so off. It’s a good thing that Texans are paying closer attention to the oil and gas industry’s self-reporting of their water hoarding and destruction.

“In 2009, 77% of water used in Montague went to oil & gas production. In 2010, 91% of water used went to oil & gas production.”

But luckily, people in Michigan don’t have to worry about drought or water shortages when our Canadian companies show up with the intent to hoard and destroy their water.

“A Canadian firm has laid out plans to drill 500 new natural gas wells in Northern Michigan, using a technique that could consume more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater — or about as much water as Traverse City uses in two years.

The firm, Encana Corp., will rely on hydraulic fracturing … Encana, for example, used 8.5 million gallons of groundwater earlier this month to frack a single gas well, the Westerman in Kalkaska County, east of Traverse City.

… The company’s plan to drill several new gas wells near Kalkaska will entail pumping about 300 million gallons of water out of the ground, injecting that water into several gas well bores and then leaving nearly all of the contaminated water in the ground when the fracking is completed, according to state records.

The result: A net loss of up to 300 million gallons of groundwater to the North Branch of the Manistee River, a blue-ribbon trout stream fed almost entirely by groundwater. One of Encana’s drilling sites is a half-mile from the Manistee River’s North Branch, according to company records.

… Fracking critics said recent problems at the Westerman gas well in Kalkaska County — where water wells didn’t produce as predicted and drillers had to truck in 3 million gallons of water from Kalkaska and Mancelona to complete the fracking process — highlighted flaws in the water assessment tool.

Encana’s Hock and DEQ officials blamed the problem on ‘geologic conditions’ unrelated to the water assessment tool.

… Encana spokesman Doug Hock, however, is optimistic: ‘Can we access the (deep shale gas) and still protect the environment? Absolutely.’”

“As Encana’s fracking operation continues in Rapid River Township, local residents are losing water pressure and water coming out of the tap looks like milk.

Last week fracking operations at the Westerman 1-29 HD1 continued, despite ongoing issues with the water supply on the pad. The additional water wells installed on and off the well pad failed to yield sufficient volumes to complete the well and Encana continued to obtain water from the Kalkaska Village municipal system until June 8, when the gas well was finally completed.

At some point mid-week, Bernard and Phyllis Senske, who live adjacent to the well site, started experiencing a drop in water pressure and discolored water.

‘It looks like milk coming out of the faucet,’ said Mrs. Senske.

In response to her distress, the Anglers of the AuSable, a group dedicated to protection of Au Sable and other Michigan trout streams, engaged Dr. Chris Grobbel, of Grobbel Environmental & Planning Associates, to inspect the well and sample the water.

His initial report, which can be viewed below, found that ‘the static water level within the Senske well has been lowered by 11 feet.

Homeowners Senskes reported that this problem is coincident with the nearby fracking operation which is also reportedly experiencing difficulties pumping groundwater to supply on-site fracking operation.’

This is not the first fracking operation to experience issues with insufficient water. Attempts to complete the Yonkman 1-29HD1 well in Missaukee County between December 2012 and February of this year were unsuccessful, despite construction of eight water wells in an effort to do so. Devon Energy approached nearby municipalities for water, and the City of McBain agreed—for $34,000.00. …

Similar issues were also experienced at the State Richfield 1-27 well where four water wells failed to provide the quantity of water required to frack the well (4.8 million gallons), and two additional wells were required.”

Of course the water hoarding and destruction by Canadian companies is not just reserved for the US.

“As summarized below, 24 wells, or one third of the 74 wells in the Horn, were fracked from one multi-well pad or location site in late 2011 to 2012, EnCana’s Kiwigana wells, the combined water volumes of which total 2,510,508.44 cubic metres, or one half the total volume of water used in the two year period by all the other operators in the Greater Horn Basins.”

And it’s a real shame about the waste water recycling.

Feb. 4, 2014 – “A newly-published study of fracking-related water use in North Texas’ Barnett Shale provides new insights into what has been a murky topic. Authored by researchers at the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology and published in Environmental Science and Technology, the paper describes the Barnett Shale as an ‘ideal case’ to try to get a better understanding of how much water is being used in fracking, the source of the water, how much is actually recycled and how much of the wastewater ends up in injection wells—pressing questions in drought-stricken Texas. ‘This is the first paper, I think, to take a comprehensive look at water use in one play,’ said lead author, JP Nicot.

While researchers, journalists and regulators have slowly developed better estimates of how much water fracking consumes, especially at a regional or state level, less attention has been paid to where the water comes from and whether the industry is following through on promises to recycle and reuse water that returns to the surface after a frack job.

What jumps out at me in this study is how little the industry has accomplished in using less water since the Barnett Shale took off in the middle of the last decade—even in the face of crippling drought.

Nicot found that the vast majority of water, about 92 percent, used to frack Barnett Shale wells in 2011 was ‘consumed’—never to return to the aquifer or reservoir again.

Only around 5 percent of all the water has been reused or recycled ‘for the past few years.’ The remainder, about 3 percent, came from brackish water sources.

The figures suggest that the industry is making very little progress in conserving water, despite a push from regulators and lawmakers to encourage the practice.

At one time, Nicot said, companies were doing more to recycle.

‘They started doing it even at a monetary loss,’ he said. ‘Then they realized well it doesn’t seem like we are going anywhere with that recycling thing so let’s cut our losses and let’s not recycle anymore.’”

Duane Pendergast says:
February 9, 2014 at 9:00 AM
Excellenct article George. It reminds us our fresh water is continuously distilled from the poisonous ocean by the sun. One of the better applications of solar energy?

JayD54 says:
February 12, 2014 at 11:44 AM
Sorry George, you are way off base with this.

The entire suite of circumstances between the sedimentary basin in Texas coupled with a wholly more robust regulatory framework in Alberta render most of the arguments in that article moot.

Alberta has seen fracking occur since the 1950s with very little in the way of impact on potable water zones. What most people object to is the use of surface water for the fracking process. Industry is reducing that and the requirements for treating those water volumes are much more stringent than in any other jurisdiction and certainly much more stringent than those for agricultural use.

As for Mr. Kotch’s claim that his research has revealed impacts, well sir, please point us to or publish that research. Regulators, industry and the general public are keenly interested (both wanting and needing to know) in those results as they belie the existing scientific record.

And the suggestion that the cancellation of contractual obligations that the Province has, and that the corporation has with private individuals for leases is just as ludicrous as it is impractical.

tiredofit says:
February 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM
JayD54 – Mr. Kotch could bring evidence to the table by the bushel and it would fail to impress those who have their mind made up. I may not have to tell you that the truth is out there in many publications and published material covering the matter.

How you or anyone else may interpret this material will be wide and varied but at the end of the study it will matter not one bit what conclusions you, I or anyone else came to because, we know that today – right now- the overwhelming evidence points to this planet running low on potable water for its residents.

For this reason alone it should be incumbent upon those few who take an interest in where their kids water is going to come from in 20 years to do something about it before the spear is thrown over the last drop.

Maybe you JayD54, could tell us how much water was used which may have been spoiled for all time in all the Fracking jobs in Alberta last year.

Your assertion that very little in the way of impact on potable water” by oil and gas” is also way off base. Where have you been – never to Fort MacMurray I suspect or even looked in on that mess.

And one more point – just because the Regulator , BIG foreign Oil and the sanctioning levels of governments have successfully concealed the corpse( the evidence) doesn’t mean it does not exist. Important!!!!

JayD54 says:
February 12, 2014 at 1:33 PM
Mr Tired of It. Yes, I have been to Fort McMurray. And the water use there is totally unrelated to use in fracking. They do not “frac” oil sands, period, full stop.

Have you ever been on or seen a wellsite? Look around Lethbridge County, Taber and Barons, for a sample of areas that have seen wells fracked last week, last month, last year, last decade and decades ago. Show the impacts!

The impact of fracking on geological formations close to surface that are used for potable water is negligible. As I stated in my earlier comment, its surface waters that are used and impacted, I agree with that. And those volumes, those used in fracking, are magnitudes smaller than those used in agricultural applications and, when returned to surface locations must be and are been treated far more than those in agriculture.

If we want to talk openly about water, particularly potable water sir, then all industrial uses have to be on the table. To single out fracking, especially in highly regulated Alberta, to the exclusion of the largest water user–agriculture–is insincere.

Rural Alberta says:
February 12, 2014 at 2:33 PM
“They do not ‘frac’ oil sands, period, full stop.”

Sure, they just “frac” the “protective caprock” – and our “robust” regulator could possibly potentially have more on that in about … oh … say … 4 years … maybe.

“Researchers of an independent report on one of the largest ongoing oil releases in Alberta history say the provincial regulator and industry must do more to inform the public about the scale and impact of massive bitumen seepage in the oil sands.

For nearly a year now, more than 12,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with water have seeped through several long cracks (some as long as 100 metres) in the forest floor near four wells owned by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) in the Cold Lake region.

To date, the Calgary-based company has spent nearly $40 million in cleanup operations that have involved the removal of 70,000 tonnes of earth. It also pumped 404,378 cubic metres of water out of a small lake to clean up two large bitumen fissures.

CNRL says the cause of the extraordinary seepage at its Primrose facility is due to a failed or partially failed wellbore, but other observers suspect that the formation was over-pressurized.

The Alberta Energy Regulator said in a November 2013 press release that it has reached no conclusions about the cause and is actively investigating it.

But the report argues it’s highly unlikely that four wellbores six kilometres apart would fail at the same time, and suggests the company has probably fractured protective caprock overlaying bitumen formations.

… The bitumen release has set off alarm bells in the oil sands industry, because half of bitumen production from the mega-project now involves companies injecting highly pressurized steam into the ground to recover deep deposits of tarry bitumen.

In the future, 80 per cent of all oil sands production will come from energy-intensive steam injection plants.

Although industry has presented this form of production as more environmentally friendly than open pit mining, the cyclic steam injection process used by CNRL at depths of 400 metres can lift ground cover by as much as 36 centimetres (14 inches) over the course of a month. Pumping the melted bitumen out can result in an equal amount of subsidence too.

Studies on the phenomenon nearly 20 years ago demonstrated that ‘it is physically possible to appreciably raise the ground surface by injecting fluids underground.’

Since 2001, satellite imagery has been used by industry to monitor the progress of steam injection and detect ground deformation. The imagery can also help industry determine ‘whether linear features exist at the surface that may indicate the presence of weaknesses in the subsurface, such as fractures or even faults.’

Secret federal briefing notes obtained by Postmedia reporter Jason Fekete last month show that the government knew about satellite data that showed ground level deformation in the area from 2009 to 2013.

Fekete reported that the satellite data showed that ‘the values of ground deformation (both subsidence and uplift) at the CNRL operation were often in the range of 10 to 30 centimetres over various sampled 24-day periods.’ Such data indicates that CNRL may have injected too much steam into the formation.

Many scientists now fear that continuous lifting and dropping of the earth combined with the force of injection near local faults and abandoned wells could fracture holes in the caprock, leading to extensive groundwater pollution and surface bitumen leaks.

… The Alberta Energy Regulator has had a team studying the critical problem of caprock integrity since 2009, but has yet to issue any reports or an incidence database as promised on its website.

The incidents are well-known. One event took place at Total’s Joslyn steam plant project in 2006. After the company injected the formation (the cause is still the subject of debate), steam exploded to the surface and created a 300-metre crater in the forest. It took the regulator four years to report on the event.

Similarly, a major release by CNRL at the same project now seeping uncontrollably occurred in 2009 and contaminated groundwater. The regulator did not report on that event until 2013, four years later.

Causation of both events remains unresolved.

… 23 different groups asked for a public review of safety regulations for steam plant operations last August.

The Alberta Energy Regulator denied the request, saying that ‘[cyclic steam stimulation] and high pressure cyclic steam stimulation have been successfully used as bitumen recovery techniques in Alberta for many years’ and that a public inquiry would ‘not provide any new information that may be able to support or guide regulatory change.’

The Alberta Energy Regulator is 100 per cent funded by industry.”

JayD54 says:
February 12, 2014 at 4:41 PM
You obviously have no knowledge of the operations of the oilsands sir. And its obvious you need the last word. So I will leave it to you to continue to blather on with blatant falsehoods and misleading statements.

Rural Alberta says:
February 12, 2014 at 5:52 PM
Ok then, thanks, bye.

Rural Alberta says:
February 12, 2014 at 1:37 PM
“a wholly more robust regulatory framework in Alberta”

We’ve recently had a discussion regarding all those “robust” regulations. You can find the informative letter and discussion here:

“Alberta has seen fracking occur since the 1950s with very little in the way of impact on potable water zones.”

How does a frac job from 1950, compare to the frac’ing onslaught of today? Could you break it down for us please, water use, chemicals, pressure, percentage of wells frac’d, number of settlements and gag orders signed after reported contamination, etc.

The oil and gas industry’s “impact on potable water zones” in this province is well documented – unfortunately, the frac’ing is only expected to make it worse.

“A Husky 1993 report states: ‘Gas migration has received increasing attention in recent years … industry and regulators have become more cognizant [of] the problem, in terms of the numbers of wells affected, the potential cost to address the problems and the technical difficulty of completely stopping the leakage … the expected costs to eliminate gas migration are $300,000 per site overall.’

Husky reported that ‘roughly half the wells’ in the area they studied were affected but ‘little consistent data was obtained with respect to the causes of the problem or what might be done about it … a technical solution which totally eliminates the problem may never be possible.’”


“The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), founded and chaired for 16 years by Mr. Gerard J. Protti, a past EnCana executive, noted the problem of methane migration dramatically increased when drilling density increased. This trend has also been reported in the United States. Alberta researchers reported natural gas leakage along well bores of about 50% of oil wells in western Canada. Years before the new ‘experimental’ high pressure, densely drilled hydraulic fracturing began, CAPP also reported that well bores were leaking gas and contaminating groundwater, and high buildup pressures may force gas into underground water aquifers.”


“The ERCB’s Stephan Bachu and independent consultant Teresa Watson (later appointed to the Board) presented in Paris, France that an increase in the number of water wells in heavily fractured oil and gas fields increases ‘the likelihood that gas, due to migration through shallow zones, can accumulate in buildings.’ A few years later, France became the first country to make frac’ing illegal.”


“Isotopic fingerprinting of several aquifer gas samples collected for Imperial Oil in the Cold Lake area ‘indicate a contribution of hydrocarbons from deeper geologic strata that reflect known releases of production fluids from leaks in well casing.’

In 2006, a water sampling company noted that natural gas leaks from surface casing vents in western Canada had ‘the potential to contaminate ground-water, kill vegetation and become a safety concern.’

A 2002 field study by Trican Well Service and Husky Energy reported that the percentage of leaking wells ranged from 12% in the Tangleflag area in eastern Alberta to as high as 80% in the Abbey gas field in southern Alberta.

In 2004, the ERCB reported that the number of leaking wells in the Wabanum Lake area increased from none in 1990 to more than 140 in 2004.

Schlumberger Well Cementing Services reports gas migration problems at 25% in Alberta’s heavy oil fields. The ERCB reported in 1999 that there were ’3810 wells with active surface casing vent flow and 814 with gas migration problems in Alberta,’ but no longer makes this data public.

The ERCB’s 2011 Field Surveillance Report notes that wellbore leakage and methane migration are routine matters of ‘high risk noncompliance’ VOLUNTARILY disclosed to the regulator.”


“They’ll frack each well up to 20 times. Each time the pressure will shudder and bang the pipes in the wellbore. The cement is hard and the steel is soft. If you do it all the time you are going to break bonds and cause leaks.

It’s a real major issue.”


“The shale gas boom combined with hydraulic fracking will cause wellbores to leak more often than run-of-the-mill conventional wells.

The problem is going to get worse, not better.”


“As for Mr. Kotch’s claim that his research has revealed impacts, well sir, please point us to or publish that research.”

It’s been published, by industry, regulators and scientists – fill your boots.

tiredofit says:
February 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM
To George McCrea
I’m not quick to swallow (hook line and sinker) a spin piece trumpeted from the Forbes bandwagon, and it may not be as excellent or as truthful as some may think.

For one thing I’m highly suspicious of comments coming from either side of a debate with a bias, political driven or otherwise, and make no mistake who, biased Forbes Corp represents.

So I’ll argue that Forbes Media (who focus’s on billionaire possessions, investments, and is a prime media defender of the lifestyle) may not be the most reliable outfit to draw conclusions from, unless you have your mind made up and wish to proceed no further with fact finding – case is then closed.

For the rest learning that Forbes’ motto is “The Capitalists Tool” some suspicion may be awakened amongst the diehard denier, especially when discussions center around the stress to water supplies that industry (not just gas and oil) imposes on this essential life giving gift.

Oil and gas nor any other industry may not possess “the ability to create or end drought cycles” but if that industry was a major contributor in the depletion all of a potable water source people living in the area drew from for subsistence, then they (industry) certainly have a stake in the dilemma, large or small.

Industries are ever increasingly tapping into not only public water supplies, but also into the dire economic despair of the people of a depressed region by providing employment, and throwing around large sums of money.

From America where farmers sell/lease land to big petroleum who provide them with instant wealth, to India one of the poorest places on earth where Coke/Nestle moved in and is removing billions of gallons of water annually to produce various non-essential rot-tucts the problem is serious and totally unsustainable.

It is so serious that real scientists who study the problem on the world stage (not spin-docs like Forbes) are saying that “demand for freshwater will exceed the worlds supply by 50% in 20 years” When big thunder and plunder moves in and literally buys towns like they did in McCloud, California,(bottled water) one needs to access the situation further to figure out how the water supply and quality of life is affected in other ways.

Thanks – Stephen F. Kotch Jr – for your excellent letter.

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