News Feature | August 29, 2014

Are Fracking Chemicals Getting Too Close To Drinking Water Aquifers?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A new study suggests that fracking is occurring closer to drinking water sources than researchers had previously realized. 

The study by Stanford University researchers found that oil exploration is likely "bringing fracking fluids into direct contact with groundwater drinking sources by fracking at shallower depths than generally believed and most-often reported," according to the North Denver News

The study focused on practices at fracking sites in Wyoming. The researchers noted that the study “does not say that drinking water has been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing,” according to the  Los Angeles Times. 

Still, the study's findings are noteworthy. The researchers found that "even as oil and gas companies usually report that fracking takes place thousands of feet below aquifers, some fracking chemicals actually get scarily close to aquifers that have been categorized as safe for human consumption," Grist reported.  

The practice could lead to problems down the line. 

"Even if no one is drinking out of these aquifers today, that doesn’t mean we won’t want or need to use them in the future. Unless they become full of chemicals that are known carcinogens and neurotoxins, that is," Grist reported. 

One of the researchers suggested policy changes are needed.

“We think that any fracking within a thousand feet of the surface should be more clearly documented and face greater scrutiny,” Robert Jackson of Stanford said, according to the LA Times

Energy From Shale, an advocacy project for the oil and gas industry, says fracking does not pose a threat to groundwater. "Each well has layers of cement and steel casing to prevent groundwater leaks. Most wells are monitored with state of the art equipment," the group says. 

For more oil and gas news, check out Water Online's Produced Water Solution Center

Image credit: "Oil Rig Maintenance in Darwin Harbour September 2013," Ken Hodge © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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