EPA's Study on Pollution From Fracking

Industry Tags: Fracking, Pollution, Research

EPA finds only limited water pollution from fracking 

Hydraulic fracturing has contaminated some drinking water sources but the damage is not widespread, according to a landmark U.S. study of water pollution risks that has supporters of the drilling method declaring victory and foes saying it revealed reason for concern.

The draft analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, released Thursday after three years of study, looked at possible ways fracking could contaminate drinking water, from spills of fracking fluids to wastewater disposal.

“We conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources,” the EPA said in the report. But, “we did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

The study was commissioned by Congress and represents the most comprehensive assessment yet of the safety of fracking, a technique that has led to a boom in domestic oil and gas production but also spawned persistent complaints about pollution. Fracking involves the injection of water, sand and chemicals underground to break apart shale rock and free trapped oil or gas.

Water Resources

Thomas Burke, the EPA’s top science adviser, told reporters that given thousands of wells drilled and fracked in the last few years, “the number of documented impacts on groundwater resources is relatively low.”

Still, it’s not accurate to say that there have been no cases of contamination, he said.

“There are instances where the fracking activity itself” led to water pollution, he said.

The EPA looked at the potential for spills of fracking fluids, poor wastewater disposal or migration of chemicals shot underground.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group, said the study was a validation of the safety of fracking. It said it showed existing oversight from state regulators is working.

“Hydraulic fracturing is being done safely under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators and industry best practices,” Erik Milito, API’s upstream group director, said in an e-mail.

Source: Bloomberg

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