PITTSBURGH — A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.
For states like Colorado, where some local communities have sought to limit fracking outright because of fear of potential groundwater contamination, the news is certainly welcome.
The DOE study monitored fracking fluids for a year that were injected deep underground in wells in western Pennsylvania. By tagging the fracking fluid with “unique markers,” federal scientists could locate them if they migrated into groundwater. However, no trace of the fluid was detected in a monitoring zone that was still a mile below drinking water.
While preliminary in nature, the study results provides solid weight behind the oil and gas industry’s claim that hydraulic fracturing, now a routine procedure, is safe and does not impact groundwater.
Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations to widen them and enable more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amounts that can be recovered. The process generally occurs several thousand feet below ground.
Environmentalists opposed to fracking claim that it can contaminate groundwater sources and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but so far, these claims are largely unfounded.
Spills during drilling, leaks from ruptured lines like that which occurred in the Parachute, Colorado region and other instances of equipment failure can impact groundwater situations, but the idea that widespread fracking is poisoning drinking water supplies is — so far at least — an unsubstantiated charge by opponents, and it should be reassuring to the public that another study has confirmed this.