A Look at Drill Waste Pits and Groundwater by Melissa Troutman, Laurel Dammann, and Joshua Pribanic “It was 2007, and my water well was fine. I mean, I didn’t have any problem with it. I was cooking, drinking, […]
Feds Link Water Contamination to Fracking for the First Time by Abrahm Lustgarten and Nick Kusnetz for ProPublica In a first, federal environment officials today scientifically linked underground water pollution with hydraulic fracturing, concluding that contaminants found in central Wyoming were likely […]
On May 12, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Michael Krancer a letter asking “Pennsylvania to do a better job sampling, monitoring and regulating Marcellus Shale wastewater discharges near public drinking water sources.” Specific requests from the EPA included using “stricter public drinking water standards” and enacting “legally enforceable wastewater disposal regulations instead of relying on voluntary actions.” Brine Treatment Corporation in Franklin County, Pa. has not stopped receiving Marcellus waste altogether but is now limiting the amount of Marcellus wastewater it accepts, treats, and discharges into waterways.
Ever since high-profile water contamination cases were linked to drilling in Dimock, Pa., in late 2008, drilling companies themselves have been diligently collecting water samples from private wells before they drill, according to several industry consultants who have been working with the data. While Pennsylvania regulations now suggest pre-testing water wells within 1,000 feet of a planned gas well, companies including Chesapeake Energy, Shell and Atlas have been compiling samples from a much larger radius—up to 4,000 feet from every well.
Where the drilling and fracturing happened, water wells sometimes became contaminated. Waste pits leaked into aquifers. Large quantities of fresh water were used. Mountain glaciers and Wyoming valleys became shrouded in smog. Reports began to emerge that natural gas might cause almost as much greenhouse gas pollution as coal. Now the industry is at a crucial point. Even as the hard lessons have come into focus, the myriad opportunities presented by this vast fuel source have made its development inevitable.
That list includes 29 chemicals that are either known or possible carcinogens or are regulated by the federal government because of other risks to human health. As we reported more than a year ago, most of the fluids now used in hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," are left underground when drilling ends. The report notes that while the fate of these fluids "is not entirely predictable," in most cases, "the permanent underground injection of chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency."