EPA report concludes that natural gas 'fracking' causes groundwater contamination

Friday, December 23, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: natural gas, fracking, groundwater

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(NaturalNews) For the first time, a federal report has verified that chemicals used in natural gas hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," can, and do, cause groundwater contamination. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a 121-page draft report on the issue that contain evidence linking water contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., to fracking chemicals from nearby gas wells.

For years, the natural gas industry has denied that fracking contaminates groundwater, insisting that hydraulic pressure forces fracking fluids so far down into the ground that they cannot travel back up into water supplies. The industry also claims that layers in the earth's crust prevent chemicals from moving towards the surface by acting as a watertight barrier.

But none of this is panning out to be true, as the EPA report has exposed ten different compounds found in the Pavillion water supply, all of which are known to be used in fracking fluid. The report explains that "glycol ethers and the assortment of other organic components (found in the water) is explained as the result of direct mixing of hydraulic fracturing fluids with ground water in the Pavillion gas field."

Back in 2008, the EPA took water samples from around Pavillion after residents complained about water contamination. The agency found hydrocarbons and other contaminants that appeared to have come from nearby gas wells, but that could not be definitively linked. But in 2010, the EPA took more water samples which, in that case, confirmed that the chemicals found were linked to the drilling.

In order to release oil and gas from reserves in shale rock, fracturing equipment forces a fluid mixture of water, sand, and proprietary chemicals into the ground at incredible force, which breaks up the rock and releases the fuel. But in the process, all those tons of chemicals, the names of which have mostly been kept hidden from the public to allegedly protect trade secrets, have to disperse somewhere -- and this somewhere appears to be both groundwater and the environment at large.

The biggest problem in linking contamination to fracking is the proprietary nature of fracking chemicals -- as NaturalNews has reported previously, federal law does not require natural gas drillers to disclose the chemical contents of their fracking formulas. However some individual states, including Texas (, and Colorado (, are now requiring their full disclosure.

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