EPA links fracking to contamination of Wyoming aquifer

  • Published on November 10th, 2011
Tapwater that's so contaminated by fracking it catches fire
This tapwater is so contaminated by fracking chemicals it catches fire

For years, the gas industry has denied there could be any possible link between hydrolic fracturing – aka fracking – and contamination of underground aquifers used by millions of Americans for drinking water and agricultural irrigation.

But a study released today has found just that – a pretty definitive link between fracking and the extensive contamination of an aquifer in Wyoming.

Here’s what they found, as reported in ProPublica:

  • Chemical compounds consistent with those produced from drilling processes, including one — a solvent called 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE) — widely used in the process of hydraulic fracturing.
  • The agency said it had not found contaminants such as nitrates and fertilizers that would have signaled that agricultural activities were to blame.
  • The wells also contained benzene at 50 times the level that is considered safe for people
  • They also contained phenols — another dangerous human carcinogen — acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel.
  • The EPA said the water samples were saturated with methane gas that matched the deep layers of natural gas being drilled for energy. The gas did not match the shallower methane that the gas industry says is naturally occurring in water, a signal that the contamination was related to drilling and was less likely to have come from drilling waste spilled above ground.
The area around the town of Pavillion, Wyoming, has been extensively drilled for natural gas, with lots of fracking taking place over the past 20 years.
Residents had complained about foul water and health problems for years. This is a good first step toward getting some serious regulation of fracking before they destroy extensive areas of Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and North Dakota, as well as other states.

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.

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