Scientists Claim Fracking Contamination in Drinking Water

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Fracking, Misc Water Issues, United States Water News, Water Contamination
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Sand flows at a Chesapeake Energy well near Carrizo Springs. It’s a hydraulic fracturing operation that releases oil and gas from rock formations.
Photo Credit: John Davenport/Express-News.

Article courtesy of Dylan Baddour | May 7, 2015 | Chron | Shared as educational material

Scientists in Pennsylvania say they’ve found fracking contamination in drinking water wells.

A paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claimed to identify the first instance of aquifer contamination by fracking operations. Industry voices contested the study, citing other possible sources for the contaminants.

If the findings are verified, it could have industry implications for Texas, where tens of thousands of fracking wells have fueled an economic boom in recent years. Although components of the aquifer contamination strongly resembled chemical mixtures used in local fracking wells, the researchers acknowledged the origin of the contaminants could not be unambiguously confirmed.

But the paper assed a most likely source: the concrete-and-steel lining that runs almost a thousand feet down drilling shafts may have cracked, releasing the high-pressure chemical cocktail which seeped between deep rock layers into the aquifer.

That would circumvent classic industry claims that the actual fracking process happens far below the depth of aquifers.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, a process by which tens of millions of gallons of chemically-enhanced water is blasted down a well to shatter rock and release trapped oil or gas. Environmental interests have long scrutinized the practice, but Texas leader have heralded the prosperity it’s brought the state in recent years.

The technique was born in North Texas, but flourished in other geologically similar regions in North Dakota and Pennsylvania. The three wells where researchers found contamination only supplied drinking water for a few rural households within several miles of drilling sites.

Homeowners in that same county had sued the local drilling company in 2011, reports The New York Times,also alleging drinking water contamination but from natural gas, not fracking chemicals.

There are no documented cases of fracking-related water contamination in Texas, according to the state’s Railroad Commission, which regulated drilling, although RRC data shows 1060 documented spills of drilling chemicals or associated products in 2014.

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