Prof: Fracking will cause water pollution

2012-06-01 09:34

Cape Town - A Free State professor says there is a high risk that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Karoo could result in one of the biggest water pollution problems in the world, it was reported on Friday.

"This is serious stuff. There will be trouble, and Shell and the other companies involved must take note," University of the Free State professor Gerrit van Tonder told the Cape Times.

Last July he had told Karoo farmers they need not fear water pollution from fracking, but his stance had changed since completing his latest research.

He was "100% certain" that underground water in the Karoo basin flowed upward, and that there were a vast number of natural "pathways" along which water could flow upward.

As a result water could carry a toxic cocktail of chemicals used in fracking up to freshwater aquifers nearer the surface.


Combined with a number of artificial pathways created by fracking boreholes, polluted water would have devastating consequences for farmers, he said.

Fracking involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure down a borehole into the rock strata containing the shale gas. The process releases the gas, which flows out of the borehole to the surface, where it is captured.

On Thursday, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said concerns about fracking, to extract shale gas reserves, needed to be overcome through research and technology.

"We cannot allow a blessing to lie fallow... If shale gas is one of the blessings, we are going to go for it," Peters said.

It was essential, however, that the process was not rushed. The technology involved in fracking was established in other countries, such as Australia and the US, and similar to that used in processing gold.

She said means of extracting the shale gas safely would benefit the Karoo's inhabitants.

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-06-01 10:19

    "We cannot allow a blessing to lie fallow... If shale gas is one of the blessings, we are going to go for it," Peters said. ...and what do you expext the money obsessed ANC cadres to say...they will seemingly sell their souls for R1 or a pair of shoes...(remember who?)

  • oneant - 2012-06-01 10:27

    It doesnt take a rocket scientists to tell you there are bad outcomes from pumping a synthetic chemical cocktail of unknown makeup (due to industry secrets) into the ground = fracking fluid.

      Dominic - 2012-06-01 22:31

      @Johan. So your perspective is that 'Fracking' is okay, because we know that Industry (not Shell or the other numerous applicants) have released what the toxic mixtures are in other parts of the world. Also, we should avoid looking at how detrimental it has been elsewhwere, to the environment, human wellbeing, and water resources because of this?\r\n\r\nReally....? What an argument, Einstein! Lets face it. Water keeps people alive. Stuff around with that, and people die. But, I suppose they will have all the gas they need, or at least that Shell needs, at our expense!!!\r\n\r\nHow much longer will our natural asset be deprived and raped to the benefit of others outside of the GDP. How many jobs will they propose will benefit, before those people cannot provide drinking water for their families because it is toxic?

      Dominic - 2012-06-01 22:36

      and just to add, the process is not 'safe'!

  • badballie - 2012-06-01 10:30

    The normal profit before life attitude of big business. They don't care if the water table is polluted or not, they simply see it as the possibility of extra profits through the need to purify the water for human consumption, we are all already aware that the government adds a profit percentage to all water and electricity consumption's as it is.

  • revaro.winkler - 2012-06-01 10:57

    fruck this fraciking theres so much history they gonna destroy and what about the people of the karoo they wil not benefit in any way like it has been forever whit all the mines etc..... natural resources they gonna fatten they pockets thats all

  • Malans - 2012-06-01 13:13

    The Karoo has wonderful sunshine. Why not use that to generate clean energy without any chance of pollution? Can't you see that is a "blessing" too? In order to get ahead one does not HAVE to trample all over the environment. Why can't people respect nature and live in harmony with it instead of against it?

  • Mandy Casey - 2012-06-02 01:45

    Nothing wrong with drinking the fracking water, just look at the picture of our minister. Hasn't done anything to her!

  • Ettienne - 2012-06-12 00:44

    Professor Van Tonder is correct and I can point him to a perfect example of this theory in the Karoo. On the Cockscomb Mountain near Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape, water moves upward via capillary action and flows from the rocks at the peak of this mountain. I've been there when no rain has fallen for some time and the dripping water is fresh and constant.

  • Ettienne - 2012-06-12 00:54

    Perhaps we need to look at other resources in this beautiful Karoo. It is probably one of the places in the world which has maximum sunlight. What about finding ways of exploiting this? Solar and wind energy are two sources which will not harm the environment and will allow people to control their own energy usage if this was made affordable. The technology is already there but too few companies have invested in these energy sources. Greater investment and better marketing will bring down the price of energy using these two renewable resources. Battery technology since the proliferation of Cellphones has improved exponentially - why not Solar and Wind energy?

      glenyso2 - 2012-08-07 14:49

      Becos...............Shell, BP and whomever, dont happen to be interested in alternate energy.............cos.............they cant put their trade make on it................and anyway Africa is too thick to believe that fracking could destroy their world, only have to put a couple of rand in someones pocket, and they would seell you their mother...........dumb.......This is going to go ahead, there is too much money involved for it not too, the same as the Gauteng tolling and this time next year we will be sitting here saying.......why, why, why.

  • cornelius.vanoudorp - 2012-09-07 11:21

    All mining (which includes oil and gas, of course) is destructive - unless well governed to limit the effects. 'Destruction' is inherent to the idea behind mining: 'exploitation of resources'. Ruling parties in many parts of the world actively support mining for the benefit of their leading 'cadres' - more often than not adding to their gains by exploiting what has become a favoured label for working people and their communities: "human resources". The only way to push mining & oil companies and governments towards responsible exploitation (forgive the oxymoron - the world is not perfect) is to boycott (e.g.) Shell and lobby government until both lean to citizenship rather than to rulership. To begin:Do not stop at Shell stations and make it known why you don't. Unfortunately we need our cars and we need electricity. We can moderate our ways given (e.g.)adequate public transport. Unfortunately that requires good government - government that contributes rather than exploit. Peters and the like are party hacks, not servants of the public good. Only we the public can serve ourselves. Keeping pressure on Shell and government is essential. As for Johann: What makes you think you are the only person to read? Vegter (your sole source, it seems) makes some excellent points, but he does not deal with critical variables: the ways in which the governments and mining companies deal with the communities and the resources.

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