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Well Water Users Should Worry About Fracking, Says New Report

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHHydraulic fracking does indeed pollute well water, a study of complaints made to state regulators indicates. The Associated Press surveyed complaints made to state authorities in Texas, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania and found a pattern that suggests fracking causes pollution.

The AP uncovered hundreds of cases in which private water wells may have been contaminated by fracking. Worse, it found that regulators in some states tried to cover up the pollution by delaying access to public records. Reporters also discovered that many property owners were unaware of the complaints about fracking. The AP’s findings seem to verify conclusions made in a July article in Scientific American.

“In Pennsylvania, the closer you live to a well used to hydraulically fracture underground shale for natural gas, the more likely it is that your drinking water is contaminated with methane,” Mark Fischetti wrote. Fischetti was describing a study of well water in areas of the state where fracking for natural gas is common.

What the AP found

Some of the AP’s findings about fracking and well water included:

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) received 398 complaints about fracking and water pollution in 2013. That was down from 2012 when the agency received 499 complaints.
  • The Ohio Department of Natural Resources received 37 complaints about fracking in 2010, 54 complaints in 2011, 59 complaints in 2012 and 40 complaints in the first 11 months of 2013.
  • The Texas Railroad Commission has received 2,000 complaints about fracking and contamination in an unspecified time period.

Duke University professor Robert Jackson found methane contamination in 115 of 141 wells he surveyed in Pennsylvania. Wells within one mile of a fracking well had six times as much methane pollution as wells farther away, Jackson found.

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A 2011 study by Penn State University discovered that 40% of water wells in Pennsylvania violated federal standards for drinking water.

The amount of information contained in the complaints is not sufficient to make a scientific conclusion, Jackson told the AP, but he believes that the state should provide more details about fracking complaints to the public.

“Right or wrong, many people in the public feel like [the Pennsylvania] DEP is stonewalling some of these investigations,” Jackson said.

Industry tries to cover up fracking pollution

The lack of information about fracking complaints is fueling distrust in the oil and gas industry and fracking. Many people distrust both the industry and regulations.

“If the industry has nothing to hide, then they should be willing to let the facts speak for themselves,” Scott Anderson of the Environmental Defense Fund said. “The same goes for regulatory agencies.”

The oil and gas industry has gone to some lengths to keep information about fracking secret. A settlement between Stephanie and Chris Hallowich of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and drilling company Range Resources actually contained a gag order that prevented the Hallowich’s children from talking about fracking.

In a suit against Range Resources, the Hallowichs alleged that fracking had contaminated their well. The couple eventually settled with the company for $750,000 and a promise not to discuss their case in public.

EPA not likely to crack down on fracking

Analysts told Reuters that they don’t think that the EPA will go after drillers because of politics. Critics believe that the EPA is afraid of the politically powerful oil and natural gas industry.

Fracking is likely to increase because of rising demand for natural gas at home and abroad. The Japanese government is planning to replace nuclear power plants with natural gas burning turbines because of the Fukushima disaster.

The US Department of Energy has approved the export of natural gas. Chevron and the Apache Corporation have built a giant port for the export of natural gas in British Columbia. Similar ports are planned in the United States.

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2 comments

  1. Perhaps this is so, but I will be HIGHLY skeptical of anything environmental wise the (A)lways (P)rogressive puts out until I hear from reliable sources.

  2. A little background is in order 1st. I am a Wellsite completions Consultant which means I personally am in charge of these Horizontal Fracturing operations in Alberta, Canada. Our regulations require our wellbores to be cased well below the water tables. There are tests we have to do on EVERY well to ensure isolation from ground water. We are required to test ground water prior to drilling programs starting and after they are done to cover our own liabilities. Because people try to scam the system quite often. Because we have prior testing in place this is now impossible. If there is contamination happening in ground water then there is 2 reasons.
    1. US reg’s are not strict enough or not enforced tightly enough.
    2. Or the complainer is trying to cash in.

    I and the company I work for take public and community relations very seriously, I myself live in the middle of one of southern Alberta’s biggest oil & gas fields. I would never put my wife and kids in harms way.
    The people mentioned with quotes in this article take a lot out of context.
    Fact: wells within 1 mile have 6X more methane. Yes this is probable because that is why they drilled there. the ground around us has gas seepage all over. In the industry it’s called Surface Gas Migration. Gas seeps out of the ground everywhere.
    The easiest test is a simple gas analysis done on both surface methane and the down hole produced methane from the well. They can tell by this if it’s even the same source of gas.
    Ignorance on the environmental side and a few bad apples on the Industry side make for extremely bad press reporting being blown out of proportion and context. Lets not kid anybody here these environmental firms are big money and some of there leaders make it rich by inflating and feeding the fires of pending doom.
    Our way of life is like turning the Titanic it happens slowly. While I agree we need to be more independent and have the resources to do it. We also need to start steering towards a more sustainable future.
    P.S. For all of you who want to jump on my comments and be a critic, My home runs on solarvoltaic, a 2K wind turbine, and solar hot water systems. I believe in recycling, reusing, and being a good steward of our earth. I just don’t care for all the Half truths out in the media.

    Thank you for your time

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