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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 3rd, 2011
Washington, D.C.– Contrary to the drilling industry claim that hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated groundwater, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in a 1987 study that “fracking” of a natural gas well in West Virginia
contaminated an underground drinking water source. That all-but-forgotten report to Congress, uncovered by Environmental Working Group and Earthjustice, found that fracturing gel from a shale gas well more than 4,000 feet deep had contaminated well water.
EPA investigators concluded that the contamination was “illustrative” of a broader problem of pollution associated with hydraulic fracturing but said the agency’s investigation was hampered by confidentiality agreements between industry and affected landowners. Environmental Working Group’s year-long investigation of the incident found that several abandoned natural gas wells located near the fractured well in West Virginia could have served as conduits that allowed the gel, a common ingredient in fracking fluid, to migrate into the water well.
“When you add up the gel in the water, the presence of abandoned wells and the documented ability of drilling fluids to migrate through these wells into underground water supplies, there is a lot of evidence that EPA got it right and that this was indeed a case of hydraulic fracturing contamination of groundwater,” said Dusty Horwitt, EWG’s senior oil and gas analyst and author of “Cracks in the Façade,” EWG’s report about EPA’s finding.
“Now it’s up to EPA to pick up where it left off 25 years ago and determine the true risks of fracking so that our drinking water can be protected.”
Since the 1987 report, the industry has hydraulically fractured hundreds of thousands of wells and is continuing a historic push into natural gas-bearing shale formations, once considered inaccessible, that lie beneath populated areas in a number of states, including West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Louisiana and Arkansas.