EPA report: Fracking has caused isolated, not widespread, water pollution

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: A federal Environmental Protection Agency study has for the first time determined that hydraulic fracturing, used in oil and gas development throughout the United States, has contaminated water supplies in isolated incidents but has not caused widespread, systematic damage to water resources.

The study, ordered by Congress in 2010, concluded that the number of actual problems caused by the process was relatively small compared to the thousands of wells that have been drilled. Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals and sand deep underground under high pressure to crack shale formations and release the gas and oil it holds.

But the study also identified a series of “vulnerabilities” created by the process. Those vulnerabilities or risks include: water withdrawals from limited water sources; groundwater contamination; inadequate well cementing and casings that allowed migration of gas and liquids into drinking water aquifers; releases of inadequately treated wastewater; and surface spills of chemical fracking fluids and wastewater… (more)


1 Comment

  1. This line about “no widespread water pollution” was a headline for Bloomberg News. In fact the report basically says that fracking does pollute, the main concerns being the immense amount of water required for modern fracking with horizontal wells. In Ohio, for example, entire streams have had huge amounts of water withdrawn from them with no studies done on how those steams are suffering from it. Fair use water laws allow these fracking companies to withdraw water from public sources and modern fracking requires millions of gallons of water. The report says also that 1-6 percent of new wells’ linings fail.

    The fracking industries have gotten away with misleading the public on how fracking doesn’t pollute, what they don’t say is illegal dumping and legal dumping of “brine” waste water (actually polluted water with toxic chemicals and radioactivity) is what is causing much of the pollution, not the gas wells themselves. Also, another type of well, known as a “deep injection” well is not for extraction of gas but a legal but questionable means of dealing with all of their waste. They drill a deep vertical well that goes well beneath the water table and inject all of their waste into the ground. These wells are associated with earthquakes. Industry has been using deep wells for getting rid of waste for a long time but that doesn’t mean they eventually won’t pollute, some from other industries have. The entities injecting the wastes may no longer exist but the pollution does.

    Read the report, not Bloomberg’s headlines. Fracking pollutes and it is widespread as the wells themselves. In other words fracking hasn’t polluted ground water everywhere just where fracking and waste disposal is taking place. We needed a study to determine that? Some of this waste is ending up in the Ohio River by the way and municipalities there are saying they are reaching a point where they can’t clean the water for drinking. Because the fracking industry doesn’t have to reveal what is in their chemical mixes there really isn’t any way of knowing if the pollution in the drinking water is from them. But municipalities in western PA are saying they can’t remove this pollution with conventional means and the existing testing for harmful substances in drinking water might not even be including all of the toxins being dumped by fracking.

    We need energy but we also need for the Natural Gas industries to pay their fair share of testing and cleaning up pollution. The false economy of “cheap gas” isn’t so cheap if they had to clean up the mess they have been making.

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