Groundwater at risk from fracking, says new EPA study

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Groundwater is at risk from fracking, reports Andrew Nikiforuk, in The Tyee

Another U.S. study has found that hydraulic fracking, which triggers small- to medium-sized earthquakes, can change the chemistry and quality of groundwater.

The report comes at the same time the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the final version of its five-year-long study on fracking, which confirms that and that impacts vary “in frequency and severity” depending on location, the scale of operations, and technologies used.

The findings put to rest claims by the oil and gas industry and its regulators that hydraulic fracturing is entirely safe and proven.

In 2010, for example, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil and now President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, told a Congressional hearing, “There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one.”

But the latest research and EPA report confirm what rural residents have complained about for years: that fracking can mobilize chemicals into groundwater through a variety of pathways, including the release of toxic fluids and leaks from well sites.

The research by geochemists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory analyzed more than a thousand groundwater samples collected by industry and universities in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee. His book on the history of hydraulic fracking and Jessica Ernst, Slick Water, was awarded top honors by the U.S. National Association of Science Writers this year.

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