Fracking Doesn't Harm Drinking Water, Study Says.

|

Frack away.

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

NEXT: Kennedy on Whitney Houston, Adele, &...Michelle Obama?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Fearless prediction: the Gasland idiots will be out in force, claiming that the study authors are stooges of industry.

    1. You mean that evil industry that contributed 26 million to the Sierra Club?

    2. Fearless prediction: the Gasland idiots will be out in force, claiming that the study authors are stooges of industry.

      It’s from the University of Texas. How could anything from the giant petro-state on this subject be trusted?

      1. That would be funny if I hadn’t read that exact same comment (made without irony) on another news site.

      2. It’s from the University of Texas. How could anything from the giant petro-state on this subject be trusted?

        I suppose you are correct to question the judgement of something coming out of UT. After all, UT staff and professors, along with the rest of Austin and Travis county, are a Democratic Party stronghold, in contrast to most of Texas.

    3. This only proves how deep the conspiracy goes, dontcha know?

  2. As if this is going to change anyone’s mind. The battle lines have been drawn; don’t let something like science get in the way.

  3. Bring on the drills. The Tuscaloosa Sands is ready to be fracked!

  4. BBC’s still running Battlestar Galactica reruns, woo hoo!

    1. You don’t own the complete dvd set?

    2. You can watch the entire series (and the spin-off Caprica) on NetFlix instant streaming.

  5. I never drink water anyway. Fish frack in it, godsdammit.

    1. It’s purified in the beer making process to I’m good.

    2. One time, during Prohibition, I survived for three days on nothing but bread and water.

  6. Who cares what the study says. If fracking is safe, how come I’ve never seen a natural gas CEO drink fracking water.

    (Yes, that’s a real argument I read someone make)

  7. “The report, released here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW), doesn’t give this form of natural gas extraction a clean bill of health. Rather, it 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.”

    Wow that is a relief! When I’m drink contaminated water I will be able to say; it wasn’t the fraking it was their incompetence! Does negligence make the water taste better or worse?

    1. Did you ever contemplate that knowing where the problems may lie and where they dont might be useful in actually preventing the pollution in the first place?

      1. I see you prefer to drink water contaminated from negligence; go ahead

        Or, you could ask yourself why fraking was allowed to continue while contamination was associated with it.

        1. Because no contamination was associated with it that actual science could prove?

          Oh, and don’t drink contaminated water; that would deprive someone of the opportunity to run you over in their 24-cylinder supercharged Gaia-destroyer and collect the points.

    2. If only we could convince you to drink contaminated water our troubles would be over.

      Also, this study is a boondoggle because industry and government regulators have known this since the 60’s when Fracking first started. The only people that are freaking out are environmentalists that have no interest in the truth if it allows oil a d gas companies tomcomtinue existing.

    3. Wow that is a relief! When I’m drink contaminated water I will be able to say; it wasn’t the fraking it was their incompetence!

      Then go live in a cave. Nothing man made that you use is immune to incompetent design, installation, or use.

    4. Yeah, it’s like saying that the bullet in the head didn’t kill the man, but it was the loss of blood from the open wound that did him in. This article is a piece of shit.

  8. This doesn’t change anything. No amount of evidence will convince the environmental lobby of anything other than that all civilization and technology is the rape of Mother Earth.

    1. Indeed, bunch of white indians.

  9. Hoping Chief Gambol stays hell and gone out on the plains

  10. I never heard about it but it is a good news and we still take care and had clean drinking water for stay healthy.

  11. People who do not want their ground water contaminated do not much care which of the processes required for fracking cause the contamination; but this is a straw man. The problem with contamination is the treatment of millions of gallons of toxic flow back from each well. It’s bad stuff and can keep on oozing for decades. The cost of managing that among other costs has yet to be priced into the product by law and if it isn’t those costs are simply a transfer of wealth from those who bear them to those who benefit from the transaction. Shouldn’t everyone’s property rights be protected? Since that is not always possible, perhaps communities should be allowed to frack if they want or not Frack if they don’t because it clearly has differing costs from one place to the next.

    1. I can only assume that Cork is ignorant of the first law of toxicology. It’s the dose that makes the poison. The “millions of gallons” is roughly 98% to 99% water.

      The cost of managing that among other costs has yet to be priced into the product by law …

      Bull$shit. When appropriate the water is deep well injected. If not then it is collected and treated to remove the chemicals. Most of the time it is simply reused in other wells.

      1. Greg F – thank you for an informed comment. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about on this fracking question.

        So, Cork, what say you to someone who can talk facts, not your fabrications?

  12. You won’t find this story in Popular Science because petroleum is not “popular”.

    I made the mistake of subscribing to Popular Science and Popular Mechanics. They ought to rename them Global Warming Political Advocate Magazine.

    Every issue starts off with a sermon from the editor. And then they manage to shoehorn a global warming reference into nearly everything.

    I flipped an issue open only to see a story about the tornado that hit Joline last summer. “Wow, they’ll definitely find a way to bring global warming into this!” I thought.

    Turning to the first page of the story, I saw it was entitled “Did Global Warming Destroy My Hometown?”

    I kid you not.

    1. Yeah – I read that as well. Absolute shit. SciAm had the same issues, and it’s now a joke of a magazine.

  13. Assuming that the dose that makes the poison varies from one toxin to the next both in terms of quantity and concentration, we may also assume that Greg knows that his figure of 98-99% is completely meaningless without other information. In Pennsylvania, we know that the concentration of the particular toxins in treated flowback dumped into the Monongahela rendered the drinking water of more than half a million people temporarily undrinkable (as in unsafe) a few summers ago.

    1. Well Cork you appear to have missed the point. It was you that claimed “millions of gallons of toxic flow back from each well”. Someone familiar with toxicology would know that your statement is “completely meaningless without other information” which you have failed to provide. In fact you continue with more meaningless statements like:

      In Pennsylvania, we know that the concentration of the particular toxins in treated flowback dumped into the Monongahela rendered the drinking water of more than half a million people temporarily undrinkable (as in unsafe) a few summers ago.

      Would you care to be more specific on the incident in question and the “particular toxins”?

  14. I can’t wait to see how high gas prices are this summer. I am hoping for $5, but will settle for North of $4. I want to see how Obama’s media lackeys spin it. As usual, our economy will go into a (deeper) recession a few months later. Too bad, but a necessary evil to get rid of this creep.

  15. Ny times 11/17/11states that the monongahela which supplies most of the Pittsburgh area with drinking water no longer met state or federal standards for months. It was the salts, which most treatment plants thereabouts are un equipped to process

    1. Cork – I live in the Pittsburgh area. I do not recall any issues like what you indicate. Paste a link or it did not happen.

      1. Cork you are full of it. The pathetic NYT article doesn’t support your assertion that:

        In Pennsylvania, we know that the concentration of the particular toxins in treated flowback dumped into the Monongahela rendered the drinking water of more than half a million people temporarily undrinkable (as in unsafe) a few summers ago.

        Let’s look at the facts concerning the 2008 event.

        Pennsylvania DEP Investigates Elevated TDS in Monongahela River (October 27, 2008)

        http://www.wqpmag.com/Pennsylv…..Piece16950

        Elevated TDS levels may affect the taste and odor of water. To control for this, a state and federal standard, or Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level, of 500 mg per liter of TDS has been established. Test results indicate levels of up to 852 mg per liter. Secondary contaminants are those which affect taste and odor, as opposed to primary contaminants, which affect human health. The department has no results indicating any exceedances of primary contaminants.

        There was other contributing factors as well.

        Secondly, the Monongahela basin is experiencing low-flow conditions, which means less water is available to dilute TDS. Low-flow conditions result in higher concentrations of TDS.

        Got that Cork? The drinking water, while unpleasant, was NOT UNSAFE. And a word of advice, don’t rely on the NYT to get the whole story, they have a habit of leaving out facts that don’t fit the narrative

  16. Note to those griping about any possible U-TEXAS conspiracies: Austin is unlike any other city in TX, and UT Austin is a prime example of the Austin mindset. I don’t think they even allow Republicans on campus. JK- but just barely. I think your research from there is safely insulated from Texas Oil Industry contamination.

    1. UT Austin is home to probably the best petroleum engineering department in the world. I would guess that fracking was thought up in the brain of one of its graduates. The campus itself is populated by students from all over the state who can be conservative just like people from the rest of the state.

  17. I call B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T !!!

  18. Now I see that it was funded by the Texas Energy Institute. Hardly an independent, non-biased, objective viewpoint.

  19. How biased is this article…put on by marketing company for fracking?

    They used the term “small” amount of chemicals….hahahaha! hundreds of thousands of gallons are needed for one location! hahahahah!

  20. Follow the $$$$$$:

    It is amazing what 1.5 Million $ will buy:

    ConocoPhillips Gives $1.5 Million to Fund Cutting-Edge Energy Research – “At ConocoPhillips, we believe that all energy sources will be needed in the future ? including alternative and renewable sources,” says Marianne Kah, the company’s chief economist. “Supporting The University of Texas’ Energy Institute is an opportunity for us to help advance their development.”

  21. O.K.William Cunningham,how much $$$s worth of oil co.shares do you have? The OIL /GAS Cos,have tried to take down the movie “GASLANDS” EVERYBODY should see this! then sign NO FRACKING HERE! care 2

  22. The Fore mentioned Charles Groat, is on the board of Plans Exploration and Production a firm that conducts in fracking. I got this from ScienceNow just like Ronald Bailey

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.