When it comes to your diet, whats more basic and important than clean water? Its the one ingredient every one of us consumes and couldnt live without.
Thats why you should take threats to the water supply so seriously.
The North Carolina legislature is about to consider whether to allow drilling for natural gas using a technology called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for short. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has issued a detailed report concluding that hydraulic fracturing is safe to conduct assuming a hefty list of precautions is put into place first.
Thats the rub. Will our water be vigorously protected?
Ive written often about the roles politics and regulation play in determining the health of communities and individuals. Were about to witness a political drama that could have health repercussions for years to come.
Expect bluster about bloated government trying to impose burdensome regulation upon a growth industry that promises great things for the Tar Heel state.
But we need those protections. Theyre more important than the natural gas.
DENRs report gave a long list of recommended actions that should be taken before fracking is allowed in our state. Among them:
• Collection of baseline data about current contamination of groundwater.
• Development of a drilling waste management regulatory program.
• Identification of areas, such as floodplains, where drilling should be prohibited.
• Requirements for disclosure of the chemicals to be used.
• Determination of the liability for environmental contamination, particularly for groundwater.
Not much to go on
DENRs report also includes important points that could get lost when the debate heats up:
Theres little data about the makeup of the underground geological formations in which the natural gas is located. Theres also less separation between the gas-infused layer and potential drinking water supplies compared to underground structures at other fracking operations in the U.S.
Theres little data on how fracking affects groundwater supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency is working on a study with a final report due in 2014.
From DENRs study: To our knowledge, no comprehensive studies are currently available on the long-term impacts to health from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas .
Thats a big, flashing warning signal. Will we heed it?
Remember: Some of us cook with gas. We all cook with water.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian. Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.