EPA Links Fracking to Water Contamination
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said for the first time it has found chemicals used in extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” in a drinking-water aquifer in the west-central Wyoming town of Pavillion.
The findings are part of a nationwide EPA study aimed at determining whether or not fracking is a risk to water resources. If it is determined that fracking contaminates drinking water, the implications could be huge- the U.S. receives one-third of its gas from fracking, which is a drilling process where millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are forced underground to break rocks and let trapped gas vapors flow.
Complaints Are Nothing New
Roughly three years ago, the EPA began investigating private drinking-water wells from residents living in Pavillion, Wyoming, which is located about 230 miles northeast of Salt Lake City. Calgary-based EnCana Corp., Canada’s largest natural-gas producer, owns about 10 wells in Pavillion and has been providing drinking water to about 21 families in the area since August 2010.
The EPA dug two deep monitoring wells into the aquifer and found “compounds likely associated with gas-production practices, including hydraulic fracturing.” Although testing detected petroleum hydrocarbons in wells and in groundwater, the U.S. Department of Health said it could not pinpoint the exact source of the contamination.
Implications of the New EPA Findings
What makes the current EPA findings particularly important is that there is now direct evidence pointing to critical water sources contaminated with chemicals used in extracting natural gas through fracking. Given Pavillion’s complex geology and the closeness of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, the EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking-water wells over time. Residents living in the area are strongly urged to use outside water sources while the EPA awaits independent scientific review of its findings.
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