“Bottle Bombs” and Fracking

A fracking well in operation in Williston, North Dakota. Two permits have already been issued for Wayne County.

I wasn’t surprised to read the editorial in yesterday’s Williston Herald addressing the concerns they are having in North Dakota over the truckers in the fracking industry not taking the time to make appropriate use of the latrines, but instead they are reverting to the use of a plastic bottle (referred to as bottle bombs in the article) while inside their cab, which they then throw out the window while barreling down the highway at full speed.

500,000 barrels of oil are currently being extracted daily in the Williston Basin by 210 separate well sites.  The efflux is so great that they don’t have the infrastructure to ship it out.  The Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania has proven to be productive, and now the oil industry is poised to move onto the Utica Shale in our back and front yard here in Ohio.

These drilling rigs are enormous.  They are situated on 5-acre lots.  Each well site costs $7,000,000 just for drilling costs.  Six to eight wells are drilled from the one location.  Once the drill bit reaches the shale at 8,000 feet, the rigs drill horizontally through the shale for an additional mile, each well drilling off in a different direction, to maximize the area within a one-mile radius of the drilling pad.  Water, with a mixture of sand, is then pumped into each well.  The horizontal bores are porous.  The pressure of the water “fractures” the ore, the grains of sand keep the ore from collapsing, enabling the oil to seep back into the well, which is then pumped to the surface.

A schematic of a well drilled by a fracking rig. Note this shows just one of six wells bored from each location, each drilling in a different direction to maximize yield

There has been a lot of talk of fracking in our community.  Apparently the talk has moved to action.

1.  This is a picture I took yesterday of what was the former location of Riceland Cabinet, situated a couple of miles from our farm.  It is now a distribution center for one of the many drilling operations that will be moving into our community.

Home of the former Riceland Cabinet shop.

2.  Financial advisers in our community are working triple time to keep up with the demands from their clients.  Landowners that sign leases with the oil companies are receiving upwards of $5,000 an acre plus 20% of the royalties.  The lease money is pouring into our community, but covertly, as Mennonites and Amish don’t make a habit of discussing their income or their addictions.

3.  Word got out that an Amishman had $93,000 in cash stashed in his home from leasing his land.  $2,500 of it was stolen.

4.  At a recent tractor-trailer event, one business owner purchased 41 tractors to keep up with the demands of the drilling rigs.  Each rig requires 2,000 truck loads consisting of water, cement, sand, and gravel to complete a well.  You do the math on how much traffic, dust, and havoc this will cause on our country roads designed for cars, buggies, and farm equipment.  Asphalt designed to last 20 years will be shredded to rubble in one winter.

Here are some of the ramifications of what fracking will do to our community, if it is anything comparable to Williston.

1.  Our community will turn into a man cave.  RVs and trailers will be parked wherever they can contract with local property owners.  Overnight, sewage disposal truck operations will start up, pumping out temporary holding tanks on these temporary RV parks set up on good farmland.  No hotel rooms will be available within miles.

2.  Populations in local towns will double.  The sewage infrastructures will not be able to cope.

3.  The police departments will be stretched to the max.  The operators that move in to run the trucks and drilling rigs are mostly single men with a high disposable income, looking for action on their down time.  A rough neck was arrested for rape in Williston two days ago.

4.  Divorce rates in Williston have escalated with wives leaving their husbands to live a more glamorous lifestyle with the oil workers and their disposable cash, if you call living in a temporary truck camper glamorous.

A truck hauling water in Williston

5.  Environmental issues would require another blog, suffice to say there have been earthquakes attributed to the disposing of the waste water from the wells in Youngstown, Ohio.  Well water has been contaminated due to mismanagement of waste around the wellheads.

Our farm has been in the family for eight generations.  A few years ago we placed the farm in a conservation easement to prevent future commercial or residential development.  That provides some protection from immediate contamination to the surface of our farm, but no conservation easement is capable of protecting what could occur 8,000 feet below the surface.

It may take two or three years for the scenario that I’ve painted to unfold, but from everything I have been able to deduce, we are well under way.

The rolling hills of this peaceful Swiss community will never be the same.  The thousands of trees we’ve planted over the years and the birding sanctuary we are attempting to create will encounter serious setbacks.

The view from our back yard overlooking the Sonnenberg Valley today. What will it look like 10 years from now?


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