The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its scientific report on the impacts of fracking on drinking water resources on Tuesday. The report is intended to provide states and other entities the scientific foundation to better protect drinking water resources in areas where fracking is occurring or being considered.
The report was requested by Congress and provides scientific evidence that fracking activities can impact drinking water resources. EPA identified conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe.
The report also identifies uncertainties and data gaps. These uncertainties and data gaps limited EPA’s ability to fully assess impacts to drinking water resources both locally and nationally. The oil and gas industry is, of course, highlighting these data gaps in it’s response to the report.
These final conclusions are based upon the EPA’s review of over 1,200 cited scientific sources; feedback from an independent peer review conducted by EPA’s Science Advisory Board; input from engaged stakeholders; and new research conducted as part of the study.
“The value of high quality science has never been more important in helping to guide decisions around our nation’s fragile water resources. EPA’s assessment provides the scientific foundation for local decision makers, industry, and communities that are looking to protect public health and drinking water resources and make more informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing activities,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This assessment is the most complete compilation to date of national scientific data on the relationship of drinking water resources and hydraulic fracturing.”
EPA identified cases of impacts on drinking water at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle. Impacts cited in the report generally occurred near hydraulically fractured oil and gas production wells. Impacts included contamination that made private drinking water wells unusable.
As part of the report, EPA identified certain conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe, including:
- Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;
- Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;
- Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;
- Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;
- Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and
- Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.
For a copy of the study, visit www.epa.gov/hfstudy.