Fracking: Shorthand for hydraulic fracturing, a method of obtaining natural gas by injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground, creating small cracks in hard rock that allow gas to escape. The practice is controversial because some private landowners claim it has ruined their water wells—and worse.
From a May 27, 2009, story on NPR’s “Morning Edition”:
Steve Harris . . . lives on 14 acres south of Dallas. Shortly after a driller fracked a nearby well, he and his neighbors noticed a change in water pressure.
“When you’d flush the toilet — in the back where the bowl is — water would shoot out the top of the bowl,” says Harris.
When he took a shower, there was a foul odor, and the water left rashes on his grandson’s skin. His horses stopped drinking from their trough, and there was an oily film on top of the water.
Filmmaker Josh Fox traveled around the country to see how fracking has affected communities and homeowners. His documentary Gasland, which won a special jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, premieres on HBO tonight.
Terry Gross interviewed Fox on “Fresh Air” recently. From the interview:
[S]ome homeowners he spoke to noticed that their water had been discolored or was starting to bubble. And in some communities, people were able to light the water coming out of their faucets on fire — because chemicals from the natural gas drilling process had seeped into the water.
“I did it myself,” he says. “That’s one of the most dramatic and spectacular things in the film. It just turns your whole world upside down when you can turn the faucet on and stick a cigarette lighter under it and you get this explosion of flame.”
Frack has another meaning for fans of Battlestar Galactica: It’s an expletive used in place of “fuck.”
Unrelated but interesting: fracket (from “frat” + “jacket”), a jacket worn by a young woman to a frat party in the expectation of it being ruined.