Often times when we think about the problems with fracking we think about the damage fracking wells cause. We never really consider there are more ways to dispose of the waste, and we should. Massive ponds are created to store fracking water so it can be either recycled, buried or slowly evaporated.

These ponds are coming to the forefront of discussions regarding fracking since a big controversy in Utah brought to light the impact these ponds are doing to the environment across the U.S.

Utah fracking fine highlights wastewater pond threat

Increasingly, there seems to be no completely safe option for this water. Injection wells may prevent air quality issues, but they also might cause earthquakes. Treating the water and releasing it into the environment might save water, but it also might irradiate streams and rivers.

In the arid West, allowing the water to slowly evaporate is an attractive option for natural gas companies. But the ponds have environmental effects, including possibly leaching toxins into the air, water and earth. And they can be death traps for birds that confuse the ponds with fresh water.

It’s unclear how many wastewater ponds exist in the U.S., but experts believe the number is undoubtedly well into the hundreds. In North Dakota, Montana and Texas, almost 50 percent of all fracking waste is stored in ponds, according to industry publication WaterWorld.

“They’re usually in rural areas where not that many people see that they’re there or see the damage they can cause” said Natural Resources Defense Council senior policy analyst Amy Mall. “No one really knows where all these places are.”

As of now, Utah has relatively lax regulations. There’s currently no requirement for groundwater monitoring, and companies aren’t required to present plans for how to remedy the effects of water and toxins released into the environment.

Other states are beginning to impose stricter regulations.

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