Image courtesy of the EPA.

A new study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found no “widespread” water pollution linked to hydraulic fracturing.

The report, conducted at the request of Congress, drew on peer-review studies along with state and federal databases and concluded that fracking actives have not caused any “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources.”

Researches looked at water use throughout the hydraulic fracturing process from water acquisition all the way to wastewater treatment and disposal.

The report did identify a number of “potential vulnerabilities” in the water life cycle that could affect drinking water, including some vulnerabilities not specific to fracking.

The potential vulnerabilities identified in the report include:

  • water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  •  inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
  • and spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

“EPA’s draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources,” Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development, said.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, lauded the report as proof that current regulations are working.

“After more than five years and millions of dollars, the evidence gathered by EPA confirms what the agency has already acknowledged and what the oil and gas industry has known. Hydraulic fracturing is being done safely under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators and industry best practices,” API Upstream Group Director Erik Milito  said.

The report must still be finalized after review by the Science Advisory Board and public review and comment.


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