Chapel Hill: Opinion

August 8, 2014

George O’Neal: Sip at your own risk

When I was around 16, like many folks that age, I made questionable decisions.

When I was around 16, like many folks that age, I made questionable decisions.

One night a few friends and I went to a large party after a rock show. I was sober upon arriving but was offered a drink by someone random, had about half of it and was pretty fully intoxicated within what felt like a few short minutes later.

It wasn’t magic wine, or liquor of extraordinary strength; it was a beverage that had been tampered with. Someone had drugged it for reasons unknown.

Luckily my little tale ends well. No residual effects. Mom never even found out. I never found out what was in the drink, which is scary. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how dire that situation could have become. It is quite unnerving being given something unknown, and it taught me to guard my drinks and be wary of hippies. Live and learn

So why am I telling you that anticlimactic story? Well, I want you to think about what’s in your cup when you fill it at the tap. Do you question whether that water is nourishing and replenishing? Remember that 60 percent of your body is water and it’s pretty important stuff.

Right now the state of North Carolina has fast-tracked hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for gas extraction. Fracking sends a chemical cocktail down a deep well under high pressure to help break up and dissolve the rock underneath. This frees up natural gas pockets that then flow to the top of the well to be extracted.

Those chemicals enter our groundwater and are often carcinogenic heavy metal concoctions that we are not privy to know the exact contents of. Why not? Well, our representatives have given into the money-laden cry of fracking companies who say they must protect the “trade secrets” of these chemical cocktails. The secret sauce as it were. Yes, thanks to our state government it will likely be against the law to disclose what is in the chemical smoothies that are going to be being injected beneath you. Groundwater, you know, the big cup we all share, the one that we keep all of our water in.

My fear is not unfounded, even if I often come off like a broken record. This technology causes people, pets and farm animals to get sick, and it is happening all across the U.S. now. High-pressure fracking also causes earthquakes. For real. Look up how Oklahoma went from an average of one magnitude 3 or higher quake a year for the last 30 years to 258 so far this year, linked to fracking if you need a little bedtime story.

I know we need energy; that’s not in debate. But we all know there are other ways we could create it without this extreme risk. We also know that this isn’t a fair debate. This quit being a debate when the side with the power, information and money refused to discuss, and instead decided to force their profit generating will upon us. Fracking is a corporate-backed shenanigan that our state representatives have rammed though without a proper vetting.

So, is six years (at most) of natural gas worth that risk? If so I‘ll just hush on up and go back to being the weird farmer out in the sticks who thinks that our health is priority one, and that money- making schemes should come second. Regardless of what you’re told, we can’t all be the Clampetts, and remember, it’s really hard to clean water when it’s this kind of dirty, and it’s really hard to un-cancer your loved ones.

So when faced with this new sci-fi scenario-money-making scheme, we should ask one question: Is it going to jeopardize our future for the unforeseeable? If the answer is yes or even maybe, then congratulations, we’re not interested! If you then have to lie and make knowledge illegal, well then double congratulations you’re on your way to being a great state representative in the pocket of the fracking industry. Do you really want to sip out of the cup they’re handing you?

George O’Neal owns and operates Lil’ Farm in Timberlake. You can reach him at

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