Fracking Doesn't Harm Drinking Water, Study Says.


Citizens who are concerned that fracking—pumping a mixture of water, sand, and small amounts of chemicals into deep wells to break open natural gas and oil supplies—should be happy with the findings of a new study just released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference today. As ScienceNow reports

A controversial method of drilling for natural gas, called fracking, has boomed in recent years—as have concerns over its potential to cause environmental contamination and harm human health. But a major review of the practice, released today, uncovered no signs that it is causing trouble below ground. "We found no direct evidence that fracking itself has contaminated groundwater," said Charles Groat of the University of Texas, Austin, who led the study. …

As part of the review, 16 researchers at UT Austin, in fields ranging from air quality to hydrology, reviewed the scientific literature and regulatory documents for three major areas of fracking, in Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania and New York. They could not find evidence of drilling fluids leaking deep underground, and methane in water wells in some areas is probably due to natural sources. The team did not see a need for new regulations specific to fracking, but for better enforcement of existing regulations of drilling in general—such as those covering well casing and disposal of wastewater from drilling.

The report did identify problems that can occur with drilling any hydrocarbon well:

The report…suggests that problems aren't directly caused by fracking, a process in which water, sand, chemicals are pumped into wells to break up deep layers of shale and release natural gas. Instead, the report concludes, contamination tends to happen closer to the surface when gas and drilling fluid escapes from poorly lined wells or storage ponds.

For more background on the science and policy of fracking, see my columns, What the Frack!, and Natural Gas Flip-Flop