A five-year investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the boom in natural gas drilling and production has identified potentially serious vulnerabilities that could cause contamination of drinking water systems related to the use of hydraulic fracturing.
While saying they found no “widespread, systematic impacts,” EPA officials say in a new report that they found “above and below ground mechanisms” through which fracking activities “have the potential to impact drinking water resources.”
Among those mechanisms: fracking directly into underground water resources, water withdrawals in areas with or in times of low water availability, spills of various fluids used in or produced by fracking processes, below-ground migration of liquids and gases, and inadequate treatment and discharge of wastewater.
EPA said that its investigators found “specific instances” where one or more mechanisms affected drinking water, including contamination of wells. The agency said that the number of identified cases “was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells,” but conceded it wasn’t sure why.
“This finding could reflect a rarity of effects on drinking water resources, but may also be due to other limiting factors,” EPA said. “These factors include: insufficient pre- and post-fracturing data on the quality of drinking water resources; the paucity of long-term systematic studies; the presence of other sources of contamination precluding a definitive link between hydraulic fracturing activities and an impact; and the inaccessibility of some information on hydraulic fracturing activities and potential impacts.”
This article was written by Ken Ward Jr. from The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.