EPA links fracking, pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time has implicated fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — for causing groundwater pollution.
The draft finding could have a chilling effect in states trying to determine how to regulate the controversial process.
The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas.
The EPA announced Thursday that it found compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, Wyo., where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.
Health officials advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found hydrocarbons in their wells.
The EPA announcement has major implications for a vast increase in gas drilling in the U.S. in recent years. Fracking has played a large role in opening up many reserves.
The industry long has contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites say it has poisoned groundwater.
The EPA said its announcement is the first step in a process of opening up its findings for review by the public and other scientists.
“[The] EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Jim Martin, EPA regional administrator in Denver. “We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process.”
The EPA also emphasized that the findings are specific to the Pavillion area. The agency said the fracking that occurred in Pavillion differed from fracking methods used elsewhere in regions with different geological characteristics.
The fracking occurred below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to water wells, the EPA said. Elsewhere, drilling is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of groundwater that normally would be used.