News Feature | November 30, 2017

Report: EPA Had Undisclosed Concerns Over Fracking Chemicals

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

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No wastewater-related topic draws passion from two opposed sides quite like the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and whether or not it poses a danger to drinking water quality.

According to a recent report, the U.S. EPA had concerns about what fracking could mean for human health that it never revealed.

“A new set of documents shared with Marketplace by the Partnership for Policy Integrity from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that the agency has previously undisclosed health concerns that some fracking chemicals might cause things like liver poisoning and tumors,” according to the public radio program.

The rise of fracking, which has lowered gas prices and boosted the American oil and gas industry, has been occurring over nearly a decade. It involves shooting high-pressure water and chemicals into layers of rock underground in order to access oil and gas deposits. The wastewater and chemicals used in this process must be treated properly to keep them from harming consumers.

According to Marketplace, the EPA approved the use of more than 40 drilling and fracking chemicals with known risks between 2003 and 2014. The leaked documents indicate that the agency approved chemicals that were known to poison the brain, lungs, and liver.

“The documents analyzed include chemical manufacturers’ applications for government approval and the EPA health risk assessments,” Marketplace reported. “The EPA can go back and ask companies to do chemical safety tests. But for all the drilling and fracking chemicals approved, it requested testing less than 10 percent of the time.”

Allowing the use of chemicals known to harm consumers seems antithesis to the EPA’s expected role, but oil and gas advocates would argue that the practice does not pose any threat to consumers, even if these supposedly dangerous chemicals are being used.

“The industry maintains the risk of drilling and fracking pollution is negligible,” Marketplace reported in a subsequent story. “Oil and gas groups note that chemicals do get reported to a national database known as FracFocus, though with exceptions for trade secrets.”

To read more about fracking and how it related to water quality visit Water Online’s Produced Water Treatment Solutions Center.

Image credit: "_MG_5334," Azucena carbajosa rodriguez, 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/