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EPA Study: Fracking No Threat to Groundwater

According to a new EPA draft assessment, fracking has not caused pollution of drinking water, though concerns are raised. The report has yet to be reviewed by the Science Advisory Board and is now receiving public comment.
June 6, 2015, 1pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Based on the findings of the draft assessment, "the Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water," reports Jeff Brady, energy correspondent for National Public Radio.

The hydraulic fracturing water cycle.  Please click on the image for an explanation of each step.

Credit: EPA: The Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle

"We found the hydraulic fracturing activities in the United States are carried out in a way that has not led to widespread systemic impacts on drinking water resources," [italics added] says Tom Burke, science adviser and deputy assistant administrator of the EPA's Office of Research and Development."In fact, the number of documented impacts to drinking water resources is relatively low when compared to the number of fractured wells," he adds.

The report, done at the behest of Congress, "is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date," says Burke, "including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports."

While the preliminary outcome is pleasing to the energy industry, environmentalists, who "have long argued fracking comes with a cost to the environment, especially to water," criticized the findings. In a press release, Food & Water Watch accused the study of having "the industry's oil fingerprints all over it:"

It is outrageous that the oil and gas industry refused to cooperate with the EPA on a single ‘prospective case study.’ This reveals the undue influence the industry has over the government and shows that the industry is afraid to allow careful monitoring of their operations.”

"The American Petroleum Institute says the conclusions echo what the oil industry has argued all along," writes Brady. “After more than five years and millions of dollars, the evidence gathered by EPA confirms what the agency has already acknowledged and what the oil and gas industry has known,” said API Upstream Group Director Erik Milito in their press release.

"The report also raises concerns about wells that are inadequately cased or cemented — something that can allow gases and liquids to migrate below ground," writes Brady. "Another area of vulnerability the EPA highlights in its report is how wastewater and fracking fluids from drilling operations are handled and treated."

Public comment is being accepted via the Federal Register.

Listen to the report here.

Full Story:
Published on Thursday, June 4, 2015 in NPR
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