News Feature | October 26, 2015

Yale Study: Fracking Not To Blame For Water Contamination

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A new study out of Yale University adds fodder to the argument waged by the energy industry that fracking is not a threat to drinking water resources.

“Yale University researchers said the contamination of drinking water wells near Marcellus Shale fracking sites they studied probably came from chemical spills along the surface, rather than from any failures of the underground well casings,” the Wheeling News Register reported.

“The researchers regularly visited a 7,400-kilometer region across Pennsylvania during a period of three years, ultimately taking 64 samples from residential drinking water wells. However, the team announced last week it found ‘no evidence’ that compounds found in the drinking water wells came from fracking,” the report said.

Corky Demarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, reacted positively to the study. "That is because we case these wells in steel and cement. There are multiple layers of steel and cement," he said, per the report.

"We ask everyone with water wells in the vicinity of our operations to allow us to do a baseline test on their well before we start working. Once we are finished, we can go back to look at the baseline sample to determine if there is a problem."

Desiree Plata, a study co-author, described the findings.

"In general, there is a risk in any industrial activity associated with accidental failures, and we can't compare this industry to any other fuel extraction or transport process without knowing the relative volumes of spilled and transported materials," Plata said.

A major criticism of the fracking industry is that it pollutes tap water, but authorities have questioned that notion in recent months. Fracking supporters celebrated the EPA’s announcement in June that it “did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.”

Environmentalists say fracking does pose a contamination threat. After the EPA announcement, many criticized the research that supported the decision.

“This study’s main finding flies in the face of fracking’s dangerous reality,” said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling program, per Politico. “The fact is, dirty drilling has caused documented, widespread water contamination across the country.”

For all things fracking, visit Water Online’s Produced Water Treatment Solutions Center.