October 8, 2016

In middle of a science experiment

By Hollis Moore
Navajo Nation (Four Corners)
October 4, 2016

We spent a day touring the fracking sites in the Navajo Nation nearby Shiprock and Chaco Canyon. Hundreds of households in the Navajo Nation now have a fracking site as their neighbor. Unsightly, disturbingly loud, and powerful the fracking sites are aggressive signs of destruction on the surface of the landscape. I wanted to see an image of what the sites look like underground, in particular how the fracking wells carve through the water table.

Isn’t drilling through the water table way too risky? During our tour we met a family who had just experienced a disastrous explosion just recently on their property. They had to move out of the their home- a home that was passed down for many generations, where almost a dozen 11 people lived and  5 children. What if the explosion had happened in the water table? What if the well blew out and contaminated the drinking water? Or the pipes eroded?

In the West our aquifers are incredibly precious and quickly diminishing. If something were to happen the consequences would be catastrophic. What did we learn from the BP oil spill? An accident that BP sank into the depths of the ocean, hidden from sight, but ready to surface in the next hurricane. No company, no matter how large and powerful would be able to hide a leak in the water table.

In Terry Tempest Williams’ new novel, The Hour of Land, she revisits the Gulf of Mexico and writes an essay on the impacts of the BP oil spill on the environment. In her novel, Terry takes a tour of the Mobile bay with Tom Hutchins, a volunteer pilot.   Tom speaks to the idea that the fracture may actually be leaking from a fracture in the seafloor, not just the pipe. “Nobody knows, that's the bottom line. Nobody fucking knows anything. We are part of a damn science experiment.” (Chapter 12)

The fracking sites in Navajo Nation feel like science experience as well. They are popping up everywhere to coincide with each oil boom. How can proper preventative research possibly keep up? My heart breaks to think about a possible accident in the water table.

My hopes lie in Bears Ears National Monument proposal by the Inter-Tribal Coalition, which if passed will protect 1.9 million acres of public land from oil and gas development and leases, therefore securing an outstanding landscape, cultural heritage, and public health. The Bears Ears National Monument would the first National Monument managed by Native Americans.

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