EPA Admits to Fracking-Related Water Contamination Incidents

In June this year, the Environmental Protection Agency released its draft assessment on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing or fracking on drinking water resources. The executive summary concluded that there are mechanisms that may potentially impact drinking water Fracking-Related Water Contamination resources, and that although there have been incidents when certain mechanisms led to water resource contamination, the number of incidents was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.

Here are excerpts from the report's executive summary:[1]

"Hydraulic fracturing is a stimulation technique used to increase oil and gas production from underground rock formations. Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of fluids under pressures great enough to fracture the oil- and gas-producing formations."

"Thousands of wells are drilled and fractured every year in the United States, with activities concentrated in specific locations. We estimate 25,000-30,000 new wells were drilled and hydraulically fractured annually in the United States between 2011 and 2014."

"Hydraulically fractured wells can be located near residences and drinking water resources. Between 2000 and 2013, approximately 9.4 million people lived within one mile of a hydraulically fractured well. Approximately 6,800 sources of drinking water for public water systems were located within one mile of at least one hydraulically fractured well during the same period. These drinking water sources served more than 8.6 million people year-round in 2013."

"There are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources. These mechanisms include water withdrawals in times of, or in areas with, low water availability; spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids and produced water; fracturing directly into underground drinking water resources; below ground migration of liquids and gases; and inadequate treatment and discharge of wastewater."

"We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells. The number of identified cases, however, was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured wells."


[1]    http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-07/documents/hf_es_erd_jun2015.pdf

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