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24th January 2017
Fracking fluids have "significant negative effects" on rainbow trout, say U of A researchers


Published on: January 24, 2017 Last Updated: January 24, 2017 12:28 PM MST

Non-lethal doses of fluids produced by hydraulic fracturing have been found to cause liver and gill damage in rainbow trout, a team of researchers at University of Alberta say.

The fluids, which can contain high levels of metals such as barium, cadmium and lead along with organic compounds, can also create oxidative stress in rainbow trout, long considered the “white rat” of environmental biology.

Oxidative stress is associated with long-term biological damage.

The study is the first-ever to use actual samples supplied from the industry said co-project lead Greg Goss, a professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Biological Sciences.
“Everybody knows it’s not honey water, it’s an industrial effluent,” he said.

Canada’s largest natural gas producer Encana supplied the samples but had no further input in the research, Goss said, adding that their research will help industry improve its environmental performance, practices and risk management in the case of a spill.

There were more than 2,500 spills in Alberta between 2011 and 2014.

“The end goal is to understand the effects of the spills, should they occur, on native aquatic animals,” Goss said.

“This will help in both environmental policy, water treatment options for onsite water management and improved mitigation policy and programs.”
Goss was cognizant environmental groups will jump on this research as further evidence that fracking should be banned or that industry may push for fewer regulations but he doesn’t believe either side should jump to conclusions.

“I’m a big believer that you can have industrial activity that’s good environmental management and that the trade offs are being adequately managed,” he said.

“Hydraulic fracturing is a process that’s got tremendous economic and social benefits in terms of its provision of relatively inexpensive energy.
“I don’t believe it should be banned. I think what we need to do is have both an improved environmental practice and a firm awareness of the understanding of the impacts where you can make those value judgements.”

The other co-leads on the study were Daniel Alessi in the Faculty of Science and Jon Martin in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.