EPA: Natural Gas Drilling May Contaminate Drinking Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Thursday it would examine claims that water wells in five states have been contaminated because of natural gas drilling, reports the Dallas Morning News.

The sites make up one of seven cases included in a study of hydraulic fracturing’s impact on drinking water. 

The fracturing fluids in these types of gas wells are mostly water and sand mixed with chemicals.  They are injected underground to fracture rock containing natural gas.

“We’ve met with community members, state experts and industry and environmental leaders to choose these case studies,” Paul Anastas, EPA assistant administrator for research and development, said in a statement.

“This is about using the best possible science to do what the American people expect the EPA to do “” ensure that the health of their communities and families are protected,” he said.

The EPA will examine claims of water pollution related to drilling in Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Louisiana.

The University of Texas’ Energy Institute is also conducting a multiyear study of hydraulic fracturing’s impact on groundwater. 

The oil and gas industry claims that hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate drinking water.  The industry said that fracturing occurs at a depth of 6,500 feet or more, and groundwater is typically found just several hundred feet deep.

Geologists and environmental groups said there are other ways that gas drilling could affect groundwater, outside of hydraulic fracturing.

“It is a complicated maze of potential causes and potential effects that needs to be sorted out,” Chip Groat, associate director of the UT Energy Institute, told Dallas Morning News.

“It just started as a very simple assumption” about hydraulic fracturing, Groat said. “It turned out that, yes, there probably are some problems. But what is the real cause?”

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