Controversy Rages Over 'Acid Fracking' in Florida

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Common Dreams

Controversy Rages Over 'Acid Fracking' in Florida

Concerned citizens face off against oil company and state Department of Environmental Protection.

The 'Hands Across the Sand' rally took place in Naples, Florida, in May. (photo: flickr / cc / Astronomy Gal)

An 'acid fracking' operation near the Everglades in south Florida has generated a court battle, protests, and outrage among the public and elected officials alike, with community members and county commissioners accusing state regulators of not doing enough to protect public health and the environment.

The process of acid fracking, according to Clean Water Action, "involves injecting high volumes of hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acids to corrode the geology and bring oil or gas to the surface. Like [hydraulic] fracking, it is a heavily industrialized process, using high volumes of water and chemicals."

Rather than fracturing rock, acid fracking actually dissolves limestone, dolomite, and calcite, according to Rigzone, a trade publication for the oil and gas industry. Also known as 'acidizing' or 'acid stimulation,' limited study of the procedure leaves the level and nature of the risks unknown.

In Florida, the Texas-based Dan A. Hughes oil company engaged in acid fracking without permission—the first time the process had been used in the state—and continued to do so even after the state issued a cease and desist order to allow time to test groundwater for possible contamination.

Following legal wrangling between Collier County commissioners and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the state began testing groundwater near the Hughes site last week.

On Wednesday, FDEP secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. announced in a statement: “Today’s results further confirm that contamination in the area is highly unlikely."

Residents and environmental activists are not reassured.

"Since the six monitoring wells only went down thirteen feet, the testing would only have been adequate to establish that no significant surface spillage had occurred at the well site," the group Preserve Our Paradise said on its website. "However we cannot even reach this conclusion because nearly six months have passed since the fracking operation took place."

In addition, PoP points out that the FDEP didn't test for all the chemicals that may have been present as part of the extraction process. "Put on your waders, the B.S. is now waist deep," declared a post on the PoP Facebook page.

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