EPA Study of Possible Water Contamination from Fracking Inconclusive

Jun 5, 2015

Tower for drilling horizontally into the Marcellus Shale Formation for natural gas, from Pennsylvania Route 118 in eastern Moreland Township, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, USA
Credit Ruhrfisch [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

The federal Environmental Protection Agency issued a report this week pertaining to the possible effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. The report comes after several years of analyzing literature and research, but findings were largely inconclusive.


Investigators say they found "no evidence of widespread contamination" as the result of hydraulic gas drilling activity, but that there wasn’t a lot of information on which to draw conclusions. Investigators  did find contaminated sources of drinking water, but didn’t release a list of the sites. They report the number of contaminated sites was small compared to the number of wells that exist. EPA estimates 25 to 30 thousand new wells have been drilled between 2011 and 2014 - over half of them in Texas.  

Limitations the report outlines include:

  • insufficient pre- and post-fracturing data on the quality of drinking water sources
  • a lack of long-term systematic studies
  • the presence of other possible sources of contamination
  • an inaccessibility of information on drilling activity

The report also lists ways by which drinking water could potentially be impacted: 

  • water withdrawals in times of or in areas with low water availability
  • frack water or produced water spills
  • fracturing directly into underground drinking water sources
  • below ground migration of liquids and gases
  • inadequate treatment and discharge of wastewater

Congress ordered the study in 2010.