News Feature | February 18, 2014

Fracking Could Be 'Catastrophic' Problem For Nation's Capital

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

Water authorities in the U.S. capital are speaking up against fracking in Virginia. 

The gas industry wants fracking to be greenlighted in the George Washington National Forest. But opponents say this activity could harm the Potomac River, a key source of drinking water, according to columnist Robert McCartney in the Washington Post.

Water utilities are among those concerned about the proposal. "The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority, the Washington Aqueduct and the Fairfax County Water Authority all oppose fracking in the forest — at least until the dangers are better understood," the column said. 

“If we permitted it and we were wrong, it would be a catastrophic problem for the nation’s capital,” D.C. Water General Manager George Hawkins said in the column. “When you consider the risks to a headwater stream in a pristine national forest . . . this is a case where you would err on the side of caution."

Hawkins pointed out how important the Potomac is for Washington residents. “The Potomac is our exclusive water source. We don’t have anywhere else to go for our drinking water if there’s a mistake or problem,” he said in the McClatchy Tribune. “And if there is, it would affect everyone at the EPA, every member of Congress.”

The decision ultimately rests with the U.S. Forest Service. "For decades, the U.S. Forest Service identified preserving its purity as the top priority for the national forest. Now, the agency is considering allowing George Washington to become the first national forest to permit high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking," the report said. 

Why is the issue coming up now? InTheCapital provided the backdrop: "The Forest Service, which oversees the G.W. National Forest, periodically drafts plans on what to do with their lands. In 2011, they presented a draft plan for the G.W. National Forest that more or less banned fracking." Fracking proponents, however, urged the service to take a second look at that plan, resulting in the latest round of advocacy. 

Image credit: "George Washington National Forest, VA," © 2009 rebonnett, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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