Friday, June 05, 2015

Fracking poses risk to drinking water; no evidence of widespread damage, but industry shields data

While horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations have the potential to harm drinking water, no evidence exists showing that the practice causes widespread damage to drinking water supplies, says a study by the Environmental Protection Agency. The study "linked fracking to a few cases of water pollution but said the problems appeared so far to be isolated," Joby Warrick reports for The Washington Post. "It cautioned that a number of fracking-related activities carry a future risk of polluting wells and aquifers used for drinking and farming."

EPA reported that the number of documented cases is small compared to the number of fracking operations, but EPA said the oil and gas industry refused to provide researchers with key data that prevented "experts from reaching firm conclusions about whether contaminants in an individual well came from fracking or another source." The report did say that fracking operations “have the potential” to affect drinking water. "Opponents and supporters of fracking instantly seized on portions of the report that supported their view," Warrick writes.

The report "provides information about potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing, to drinking water resources but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts," Daniel Enoch reports for Agri-Pulse. Vulnerabilities are: water withdrawals in areas with low water availability; hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources; inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids; inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

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