Thursday, May 3, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Fracking has contaminated a drinking water source, expert says

April 18, 2012

Media Contacts:

Kate Slusark, NRDC, 212-727-4592 or
Connie Wilbert, Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter, 307-742-0056 or
Gwen Lachelt, Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project, 970-259-3353 x1 or
Steve Jones, Wyoming Outdoor Council watershed protection program attorney, 307-332-7031 x12,

Fracking has contaminated a drinking water source, expert says

Independent scientist says the EPA's conclusion is 'sound' — gas drilling has 'clearly' tainted a Pavillion, Wyoming area aquifer

Pavillion, Wyo. — Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has clearly contaminated a drinking water source east of the town of Pavillion, Wyoming, according to a report from an independent scientist released today, supporting the draft findings of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation published in December. Hydrologist Tom Myers reviewed the EPA’s draft report at the request of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Sierra Club and Oil and Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project.

"It is clear that hydraulic fracturing has polluted the groundwater of Pavillion with contaminants associated with the fracking process," said Tom Myers, a highly regarded expert in hydrology and hydrogeology, and independent consultant for industry, government and environmental groups. "The EPA’s conclusion is sound."

The formation containing gas in Pavilion contains 169 gas wells, yet the formation is part of an underground source of drinking water. As a result, fracking fluid is being injected directly into an underground source of drinking water, according to the EPA.

Myers found that the Pavillion-area groundwater was especially vulnerable to contamination from fracking and gas drilling because of the area's geology, the well designs that were used, and the fact that the construction of the gas wells was inadequate to protect the aquifer. Any of these factors could contribute to the contamination found in the monitoring and water wells. Therefore, unless fracking is done very carefully in the area, contamination is likely, according to Myers.

“This confirms EPA’s preliminary conclusion that hydraulic fracturing can and does pollute groundwater,” said Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project Director Gwen Lachelt. “Communities around the country should take heed. Although different gas plays have different geology, if fracking can pollute groundwater here, it can happen elsewhere.”

“Americans shouldn’t have to trade their safe drinking water for fuel,” said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These findings just confirm the need to get critical safeguards on the books that protect American’s basic rights – clean water and clean air.”

"Fracking is a dirty process and as Dr. Myers' findings show, one that can put our drinking water at risk," said Connie Wilbert of Sierra Club's Wyoming Chapter.  "If families don’t have clean water, what are they left with?  Is corporate profit really worth more than a safe, clean place to live?”

Steve Jones, Watershed Protection Program Attorney for Wyoming Outdoor Council said he is concerned about best management practices. 

"Sporadic bonding was reported for 12 of the wells for which EPA had well bore data made available to them," Jones said. "If this is representative of the entire field, chances are that hydraulic fracturing contaminants from the gas wells will get to the water wells of many rural Pavillion residents."


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