Environmental impacts of fracking

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This article is part of the FrackSwarm coverage of fracking.
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Environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing in the United States of shale include the potential contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the potential migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, the potential mishandling of waste, and the health effects of these, such as cancer.[1] Many cases of suspected groundwater contamination have been documented.[2] With the explosive growth of natural gas wells in the US, researcher Valerie Brown predicted in 2007 that "public exposure to the many chemicals involved in energy development is expected to increase over the next few years, with uncertain consequences."[3]

According to a study released by Environment America in October 2013 titled "Fracking by the Numbers", fracking generated 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012; 450,000 tons of air pollution produced per year; 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005; 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005; and 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.[4]


In the US, interviews with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists and leaked documents have shown that, since the 1980s, EPA investigations into the oil and gas industry's environmental impact—including the ongoing one into fracking's potential impact on drinking water—and associated reports had been narrowed in scope[5][6] and/or had negative findings removed due to industry and government pressure.[7][8][9] The most recent example of this concerns the 2012 EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Draft Plan. Despite concerns about the elevated levels of iodine-131 (a radioactive tracer frequently used in hydraulic fracturing according to Halliburton and other company patents of the process) in drinking water and milk in areas near hydraulic fracturing sites,[10][11][12] iodine-131 is not listed among the chemicals to be monitored in the draft plan for the study. Other known radioactive tracers used in hydraulic fracturing [13][14][15] but not listed as chemicals to be studied include radioactive isotopes of gold, xenon, rubidium, iridium, scandium, and krypton.[4]

2004 EPA study

Another example of this is a 2004 study by the EPA, which concluded that the injection of fracking fluids into coalbed methane (CBM) wells posed a minimal threat to underground drinking water sources.[16] An early draft of the study discussed the possibility of dangerous levels of fracking-fluid contamination, and mentioned "possible evidence" of aquifer contamination; both these points were absent from the final report, which concluded simply that fracking "poses little or no threat to drinking water".[7] An agency whistle-blower said shortly after publication that the absence could be explained by strong industry-influence and political pressure.[7] The narrowing of scope for this particular study meant it only focused on the injection of fracking fluids, while ignoring other aspects of the process such as disposal of fluids, and environmental concerns such as water quality, fish kills and acid burns; the study was also concluded before public complaints of contamination started emerging. In 2005, hydraulic fracturing was exempted by US Congress from any regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, possibly due to this EPA report.

University of Texas study

Similarly, proponents of hydraulic fracturing have reported in the press and other media that the recent University of Texas Study ("Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development") found that hydraulic fracturing caused no environmental contamination,[17][18] when in fact the study found that all steps in the process except the actual injection of the fluid (which proponents artificially separated from the rest of the process and designated "hydraulic fracturing") have resulted in environmental contamination.[19] The radioactivity of the injected fluid itself was not assessed in the University of Texas study.[19] The other stages or "phases of the shale gas development life cycle"[19] into which hydraulic fracturing has been divided in various reports are (1) drill pad construction and operation, (2) the construction, integrity, and performance of the wellbores, (3) the flowback of the fluid back towards the surface, (4) blowouts and spills, (5) integrity of other pipelines involved and (6) the disposal of the flowback, including waste water and other waste products.[17][18] These stages were all reported to be sources of contamination in the University of Texas study.[19] The study concluded that if hydraulic fracturing is to be conducted in an environmentally safe manner, these issues need to be addressed first.[19]

The study's objectivity was later called into question because Groat failed to disclose his energy industry ties. In addition, there are extensive links between UT and the oil & gas industry, with the giving of Royal Dutch Shell to the university standing at more than $24.8 million, $4m alone having been handed over for 2012.[20][21] Since 2011, Shell has partnered Texas in a program called Shell-UT Unconventional Research, and the university has a similar research program in place with Exxon Mobil.[22] Halliburton, the largest supplier of fracking services in the United States, has also given millions of dollars to the university.[23] In September 2011 Statoil announced a $5m research agreement (part of which will focus on oil shale) with UT's Bureau of Economic Geology, whose program director, Ian Duncan, was the senior contributor for the parts of the Texas study having to do with the environmental impacts of shale gas development.[19][24][25]

Cornell study

A study out of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, soon to be published in 'New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,' suggests that hydraulic fracking is sickening and killing cows, horses, goats, llamas, chickens, dogs, cats, fish and other wildlife, as well as humans. The study covered cases in Colorado, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.[26] The case studies include reports of hundreds of cows dying as well as stillborn and stunted calves after exposure to hydraulic fracturing spills from dumping of the fluid into streams and from workers slitting the lining of a wastewater impoundment (evaporation ponds) so that it would drain and be able to accept more waste. The wastewater then drained into a pasture and a pond. The study noted that it was difficult to assess health impact because of the industry's strategic lobbying efforts that resulted in legislation allowing them to keep the proprietary chemicals in the fluid secret, protecting them from being held legally responsible for contamination. Bamberger stated that if you don't know what chemicals are, you can't conduct pre-drilling tests and establish a baseline to prove that chemicals found postdrilling are from hydraulic fracturing.[26] The researchers recommended requiring disclosure of all hydraulic fracturing fluids, that nondisclosure agreements not be allowed when public health is at risk, testing animals raised near hydraulic fracturing sites and animal products (milk, cheese, etc.) from animal raised near hydraulic fracturing sites prior to selling them to market, monitoring of water, soil and air more closely, and testing the air, water, soil and animals prior to drilling and at regular intervals thereafter.[26]

Early in January 2012, Christopher Portier, director of the US CDC's National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, argued that, in addition to the EPA's plans to investigate the impact of fracking on drinking water, additional studies should be carried out to determine whether wastewater from the wells can harm people or animals and vegetables they eat.[27] A week later, a group of US doctors called for a moratorium on fracking in populated areas until such studies had been done.[28][29]

Air quality

For more information go to Fracking and air pollution

The main hydraulic-fracturing-related air emissions are methane emissions from the wells during fracturing and emissions from hydraulic fracturing equipment, such as compressor stations. According to the study conducted by professor Robert W. Howarth et al. of Cornell University, "3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the lifetime of a well." According to the study, this is at least 30% and perhaps even 100% more than from conventional gas production. The study explains these higher emissions with hydraulic fracturing and drill out following the fracturing.[30] Methane gradually breaks down in the atmosphere, forming carbon dioxide. It means its greenhouse-gas footprint is worse than coal or oil for timescales of less than fifty years.[30][31] However, several studies have argued that the paper was flawed and/or come to completely different conclusions, including assessments by experts at the US Department of Energy,[32] by Carnegie Mellon University[33] and the University of Maryland,[34] as well as by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which concluded that the Howarth et al. paper's use of a 20-year time horizon for global warming potential of methane is "too short a period to be appropriate for policy analysis."[35] In January 2012, Howarth's colleagues at Cornell University responded with their assessment, arguing that the Howarth paper was "seriously flawed" because it "significantly overestimate[s] the fugitive emissions associated with unconventional gas extraction, undervalue[s] the contribution of 'green technologies' to reducing those emissions to a level approaching that of conventional gas, base[s] their comparison between gas and coal on heat rather than electricity generation (almost the sole use of coal), and assume[s] a time interval over which to compute the relative climate impact of gas compared to coal that does not capture the contrast between the long residence time of CO2 and the short residence time of methane in the atmosphere."[36] The authors of that response conclude that "shale gas has a GHG footprint that is half and perhaps a third that of coal," based upon "more reasonable leakage rates and bases of comparison." Howarth et al. responded to this criticism: "We stand by our approach and findings. The latest EPA estimate for methane emissions from shale gas falls within the range of our estimates but not those of Cathles et al, which are substantially lower."[37][38]

The Intersection Between Hydraulic Fracturing and Climate Change.

In 2008, measured ambient concentrations near drilling sites in Sublette County, Wyoming were frequently above the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) of 75ppb and have been recorded as high as 125 ppb.[39] A 2011 study for the city of Fort Worth, Texas, examining air quality around natural gas sites "did not reveal any significant health threats."[40][41] In DISH, Texas, elevated levels of disulphides, benzene, xylenes and naphthalene have been detected in the air, emitted from the compressor stations.[42] People living near shale gas drilling sites often "complain of headaches, diarrhea, nosebleeds, dizziness, blackouts, muscle spasms, and other problems."[43]

In Garfield County, Colorado, another area with a high concentration of drilling rigs, volatile organic compound emissions increased 30% between 2004 and 2006; during the same period there was a rash of health complaints from local residents. In 2012, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health showed that air pollution caused by fracking may contribute to "acute and chronic health problems" for those living near drilling sites.[44]

The EPA has proposed new regulations for controlling emissions from upstream oil and gas operations. These regulations would reduce emissions from aspects of the oil and gas production process including completions and various fugitive emissions. The regulations are scheduled to by fully effective by January 2015. However, the industry has requested a delay in implementation.[45][46]


For more information go to Fracking and water pollution and Fracking and water consumption
Documentation Issues. As development of natural gas wells in the U.S. since the year 2000 has increased, so too have claims by private well owners of water contamination. While the EPA recognizes the potential for contamination of water by hydraulic fracturing, in May 2011 EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson testified in a Senate Hearing Committee stating "I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water...".[47] One reason for a seeming lack of documentation is the current practice of sealing the documents after a court case. While the American Petroleum Institute "dismissed the assertion that sealed settlements have hidden problems with gas drilling," some feel it represents an unnecessary risk to public safety and health.[48] Despite these setbacks, there are, however, cases of contamination have been documented both before and after her testimony.

1987 Jackson County, West Virginia case. As early as 1987, an E.P.A. report was published that indicated fracture fluid invasion into James Parson's water well in Jackson County, West Virginia. The well, drilled by Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company, was found to have induced fractures that created a pathway to allow fracture fluid to contaminate the groundwater from which Mr. Parson's well was producing. There still however exists much contention between the oil and gas industry and the E.P.A. on the accuracy and thoroughness of this report.[48]

Duke University study. A Duke University study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2011 examined methane in groundwater in Pennsylvania and New York states overlying the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale. It determined that groundwater tended to contain much higher concentrations of methane near fracking wells, with potential explosion hazard; the methane's isotopic signatures and other geochemical indicators were consistent with it originating in the fracked deep shale formations, rather than any other source.[49] Complaints from a few residents on water quality in a developed natural gas field prompted an EPA groundwater investigation in Wyoming. The EPA reported detections of methane and other chemicals such as phthalates in private water wells.[50] However, it is important to note that not every instance of groundwater methane contamination is a result of hydraulic fracturing. Often, local water wells drill through many shale and coal layers that can naturally seep methane into the producing groundwater. This methane is often biogenic (created by organic material decomposition) in origin as opposed to thermogenic (created through "thermal decomposition of buried organic material"[51]). Thermogenic methane is the methane most often sought after by oil & gas companies deep in the earth, whereas biogenic methane is found in shallower formations (where water wells are typically drilled). Through isotope analysis and other detection methods, it is often fairly easy to determine whether the methane is biogenic or thermogenic, and thus determine from where it is produced.[51]

EPA and U.S. Geological Survey Reports on Pavillion, Wyoming. A draft report released by the EPA on December 8, 2011 suggested that the ground water in the Pavillion, Wyoming, aquifer contains "compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing".[52][53][54] The EPA discovered traces of methane and foaming agents in several water wells near a gas rig. Samples of water taken from EPA’s deep monitoring wells in the aquifer were found to contain synthetic chemicals (e.g., glycols and alcohols) used in gas production and hydraulic fracturing fluid, and high methane levels. Benzene concentrations in the samples were well above Safe Drinking Water Act standards.[52] Template:Quote The draft report also stated: "Alter­na­tive expla­na­tions were care­fully con­sid­ered to explain indi­vid­ual sets of data. How­ever, when con­sid­ered together with other lines of evi­dence, the data indi­cates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing."[55] Industry figures rejected the EPA's findings.[56] Questions about the agency's testing procedures,[57] however, led the EPA to agree to additional testing in order to clarify questions about the protocols followed in the draft report.[58] The EPA did not abandon the conclusions in its draft report, but it did suspend the independent scientific review process until the additional testing was completed.

The EPA report stated concerns about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the future safety of drinking water in the context of the area’s complex geology. EPA's sampling of Pavillion area drinking water wells found chemicals consistent with those reported in previous EPA reports, including but not limited to methane and other petroleum hydrocarbons, indicating migration of contaminants from areas of gas production.[52] In response, in 2010 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommended that owners of tainted wells use alternate sources of water for drinking and cooking, and ventilation when showering. Encana is funding the alternate water supplies,[52] but denied responsibility for the contamination.[59] During the investigation Luke Chavez (EPA investigator), commented that the contaminants could have come from cleaning products or oil and gas production, but said that in either case, their presence suggested problematic practices.[60] Shortly after the release of EPA's draft report on Pavillion, however, questions about the agency's testing procedures began to mount,[57] and in March 2012 the EPA agreed to additional testing to clarify questions and other concerns.[58] Although the EPA did not state that it was abandoning the conclusions in the draft report, it did suspend the independent scientific review process until the additional testing was completed.Template:Citation needed In 2012 the U.S. Geological Survey tested one of two EPA monitoring wells near Pavillion, Wyoming, and found evidence of methane, ethane, diesel compounds and phenol,[61] which the EPA had also identified in its 2011 report.[62] Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University, described the methane, ethane, and propane concentrations as very high, consistent with fossil fuel rather than natural sources.[59] The EPA has retested water in Pavillion, and has briefed the homeowners, but has not yet released the results to the public. Pavillion resident John Fenton reported that the EPA told him the recent test results were consistent with previous results, and that the EPA recommended that they don't cook with or drink their water.[59]

University of Texas Study. The University of Texas Study described the environmental impact of each of the separate parts of the overall hydraulic fracturing process, or "phases of the shale gas development life cycle."[19] These parts include of (1) drill pad construction and operation, (2) the construction, integrity, and performance of the wellbores, (3) the injection of the fluid once it is underground (which proponents consider the actual "fracking"), (4) the flowback of the fluid back towards the surface, (5) blowouts, often unreported, which spew hydraulic fracturing fluid and other byproducts across surrounding area, (5) integrity of other pipelines involved and (6) the disposal of the flowback, including waste water and other waste products. Associated problems include (1) Groundwater Contamination, (2) Blowouts and House Explosions, (3) Water Consumption and Supply, (4) Spill Management and Surface Water Protection, (5) Atmospheric Emissions, (6) Health Effects[19] Proponents have reported that groundwater contamination doesn't come directly from the "fracking" part of the process (the injection of hydraulic fracturing chemicals into Shale rock formations) but from other parts of the hydraulic fracturing process, such as leaks in its fluid or waste storage apparatus. One review says that methane in well waters in some areas probably comes from natural sources.[63][64] Injection cannot be accomplished, however, without the accompanying stages. Wellbores and pipelines can have faulty construction or be damaged during the process, allowing the fluid to flow into aquifers.[19] The waste water evaporation ponds allow the volatile chemicals in the waste water to evaporate into the atmosphere. The ponds may overflow when it rains, and the runoff will eventually makes its way into groundwater systems. Groundwater may become contaminated when poorly constructed pipelines used to transport the waste water to water treatment plants leak or break, allowing the waste water and fracking chemicals to flow into groundwater systems. The transportation by trucks and storage of fracking chemicals allows for groundwater to become contaminated when accidents happen during transportation to the fracking site or to its disposal destination. Disposal of fracking fluid by injection can cause earthquakes, and release of unprocessed or under-processed waste water into rivers can contaminate water supplies.[19]

EPA reports on Dimock, Pennsylvania. In the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania, 13 water wells were contaminated with methane (one of them blew up). Arsenic, barium, DEHP, glycol compounds, manganese, phenol, and sodium were also found in unacceptable levels in the wells.[65] As a result, Cabot Oil & Gas was required to financially compensate residents and provide alternative sources of water until mitigation systems were installed in affected wells.[65] The company continues to deny, however, that any "of the issues in Dimock have anything to do with hydraulic fracturing".[66][60][67][68] The devices needed to prevent such water contamination cost as little as $600.[69] On Dec. 2, 2011, EPA sent an email to several Dimock residents indicating that their well water presented no immediate health threat. On Jan. 19, 2012, the EPA reversed its position, and asked that the agency’s hazardous site cleanup division take immediate action to protect public health and safety.[65][70] EPA began follow up testing and sampling local water supplies in Dimock in early 2012.[71] In May 2012 EPA reported that their most recent "set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action." Methane was found only in one well.[70] Cabot has held that the methane was preexisting, but state regulators have cited chemical fingerprinting as proof that it was from Cabot's hydraulic fracturing activities.[71][72] Both Duke University and University of Rochester are conducting studies of the age of the well water to confirm the sources of the various contaminants.[71] EPA plans to re-sample four wells where previous data by the company and the state showed levels of contaminants.[70]

Colorado School of Public Health report on DISH, Texas. In DISH, Texas, elevated levels of disulphides, benzene, xylenes and naphthalene have been detected in the air, alongside numerous local complaints of headaches, diarrhea, nosebleeds, dizziness, muscle spasms and other problems. Additionally, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission has found some wells containing thermogenic methane due to oil and gas development upon investigating complaints from residents.[73] Individuals "smell things that don't make them feel well, but we know nothing about cause-and-effect relationships in these cases."[74] In Garfield County, Colorado, another area with a high concentration of drilling rigs, volatile organic compound emissions increased 30% between 2004 and 2006; during the same period there was a rash of health complaints from local residents. Epidemiological studies that might confirm or rule out any connection between these complaints and fracking are virtually non-existent. The health effects of VOCs are largely unquantified, so any causal relationship is difficult to ascertain; however, some of these chemicals are suspected carcinogens and neurotoxins. Investigators from the Colorado School of Public Health performed a study in Garfield regarding potential adverse health effects, and concluded that residents near gas wells might suffer chemical exposures, accidents from industry operations, and psychological impacts such as depression, anxiety and stress. This study (the only one of its kind to date) was never published, owing to disagreements from local health officials and the industry about the study's methods.[74]

Gasland. In 2010 the film Gasland premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The filmmaker claims that chemicals including toxins, known carcinogens, and heavy metals polluted the ground water near well sites in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Colorado.[75] The film was criticized by oil and gas industry group[76] Energy in Depth as factually inaccurate;[77] in response, a detailed rebuttal of the claims of inaccuracy has been posted on Gasland's website.[78]

2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology report. A 2011 report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology addressed groundwater contamination, noting "There has been concern that these fractures can also penetrate shallow freshwater zones and contaminate them with fracturing fluid, but there is no evidence that this is occurring. There is, however, evidence of natural gas migration into freshwater zones in some areas, most likely as a result of substandard well completion practices by a few operators. There are additional environmental challenges in the area of water management, particularly the effective disposal of fracture fluids". This study encourages the use of industry best practices to prevent such events from recurring.[79]

2011 EPA study of water pollution by hydraulic fracturing. Directed by Congress, the U.S. EPA announced in March 2010 that it would examine claims of water pollution related to hydraulic fracturing.[8] The 2012 EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Draft Plan was narrowed to exclude studying the effects of flowback, also known as wastewater, and radioactive tracer isotopes, such as iodine-131 (found in Philadelphia's drinking water),[10][11][12] used in hydraulic fracturing.[13][14][15] Christopher Portier, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, argued that, in addition to the EPA's plans to investigate the impact of fracking on drinking water, additional studies should be carried out to determine whether wastewater from the wells can harm people or animals and vegetables they eat.[27] A group of US doctors called for a moratorium on fracking in populated areas until such studies had been done.[28][29]


The New York Times has reported radiation in hydraulic fracturing wastewater released into rivers in Pennsylvania.[80] It collected data from more than 200 natural gas wells in Pennsylvania and has posted a map entitled Toxic Contamination from Natural Gas Wells in Pennsylvania. Sand containing gamma-emitting tracer isotopes is used to trace and measure fractures.[13] The Times stated "never-reported studies" by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and a "confidential study by the drilling industry" concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.[81] Despite this, as of early 2011 federal and state regulators did not require sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste (which is mostly water) to test for radioactivity. In Pennsylvania, where the drilling boom began in 2008, most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006.[82] The New York Times reporting has predictably been criticized[83] and one science writer has taken issue with one instance of the newspaper's presentation and explanation of its calculations regarding dilution,[84] charging that a lack of context made the article's analysis uninformative.[85]

According to a Times report in February 2011, wastewater at 116 of 179 deep gas wells in Pennsylvania "contained high levels of radiation," but its effect on public drinking water supplies is unknown because water suppliers are required to conduct tests of radiation "only sporadically".[86] The New York Post stated that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reported that all samples it took from seven rivers in November and December 2010 "showed levels at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels of radioactivity", and "below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228."[87] However the samples taken by the state at at least one river, (the Monongahela River, a source of drinking water for parts of Pittsburgh), were taken upstream from the sewage treatment plants accepting drilling waste water.[88]

In Pennsylvania, much of the wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations is processed by public sewage treatment plants. Many sewage plants say that they are incapable of removing the radioactive components of this waste, which is often released into major rivers. Industry officials, though, claim that these levels are diluted enough that public health is not compromised.[80]

The New York Times has reported that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has engaged in industry-friendly inactivity, such as only making a "request — not a regulation" of gas companies to handle their own flowback waste rather than sending them to public water treatment facilities.[89] However, former Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Hanger, who served under Gov. Ed Rendell, has affirmed that municipal drinking water throughout the state is safe. "Every single drop that is coming out of the tap in Pennsylvania today meets the safe drinking water standard," Hanger said, but added that the environmentalists were accurate in stating that Pennsylvania's water treatment plants were not equipped to treat hydraulic fracturing water.[90] Current Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Michael Krancer serving under Gov. Tom Corbett has said it is "total fiction" that untreated wastewater is being discharged into the state's waterways,[91] though it has been observed that Corbett received over a million dollars in gas industry contributions,[92] more than all his competitors combined, during his election campaign.[93] The New York Times reported that regulations are lax in Pennsylvania.[80] The oil and gas industry is generally left to police itself in the case of accidents. Unannounced inspections are not made by regulators: the companies report their own spills, and create their own remediation plans.[80] A recent review of the state-approved plans found them to appear to be in violation of the law.[80] Treatment plants are still not equipped to remove radioactive material and are not required to test for it.[80] Despite this, in 2009 the Ridgway Borough’s public sewage treatment plant, in Elk County, PA, facility was sent wastewater containing radium and other types of radiation at at 275-780 times the drinking-water standard. The water being released from the plant was not tested for radiation levels.[80] Part of the problem is that growth in waste produced by the industry has outpaced regulators and state resources.[80] It should be noted that "safe drinking water standards" have not yet been set for many of the substances known to be in hydrofracturing fluids or their radioactivity levels,[80] and their levels are not included in public drinking water quality reports.[94]

The EPA has asked the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to require community water systems in certain locations, and centralized wastewater treatment facilities to conduct testing for radionuclides.[88] Safe drinking water standards have not yet been established to account for possible substances or radioactivity levels known to be in hydraulic fracturing waste water,[80] and although water suppliers are required to inform citizens of radon and other radionuclides levels in their water, this doesn't always happen.[12]


For more information go to Fracking and tremors
Several earthquakes—including a magnitude 4.0 tremor on New Year's Eve that had hit Youngstown, Ohio—are likely linked to disposal wells for injecting wastewater used in the hydraulic fracturing process, according to various government and academic reports.[95]

Other monitoring resources

Andrew Revkin identified two web-based resources available to help monitor fracking and its impacts in affected regions.

  • In Pennsylvania, Fracktrack.org was developed "to organize masses of data on drilling permits, violations and other activities related to the natural gas drilling rush in that state". Jamie Serra, developer of the site, set out to provide "a suite of tools to help landowners and citizens of the commonwealth understand what’s happening around them".
  • SkyTruth, drawing on "data that are voluntarily submitted by gas companies to the FracFocus chemical disclosure registry", has created a fracking-chemical data base.

Revkin also provided an EPA video to encourage local infrared video monitoring of methane leakage from gas operations.[96]

Further reading


  1. Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing. Committee on Energy and Commerce U.S. House of Representatives (April 18, 2011).
  2. Incidents where hydraulic fracturing is a suspected cause of drinking water contamination. U.S. NRDC (December 2011). Retrieved on 23 February 2012.
  3. Valerie J. Brown, "Industry Issues: Putting the Heat on Gas," Environmental Health Perspectives 115(2), Feb 2007.
  4. "New Report First to Quantify Damage Done by Gas Drilling" Environment America, October 3, 2013.
  5. DiCosmo, Bridget (15 May 2012). SAB Pushes To Advise EPA To Conduct Toxicity Tests In Fracking Study. InsideEPA. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved on 2012-05-19. “But some members of the chartered SAB are suggesting that the fracking panel revise its recommendation that the agency scale back its planned toxicity testing of chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process, because of the limited resources and time frame...Chesapeake Energy supported the draft recommendation, saying that “an in-depth study of toxicity, the development of new analytical methods and tracers are not practical given the budget and schedule limitation of the study.””
  6. Satterfield, John (30 June 2011). Letter from Chesapeake Energy to EPA. InsideEPA. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved on 2012-05-19.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Ian Urbina (3 March 2011). "Pressure Limits Efforts to Police Drilling for Gas". Retrieved on 23 February 2012. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 EPA's Study of Hydraulic Fracturing and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources. EPA. Retrieved on 24 February 2010.
  9. Documents: The Debate Over the Hydrofracking Study's Scope. NYTimes.com (3 March 2011). Retrieved on 23 February 2012.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Jeff McMahon (10 April 2011). EPA: New Radiation Highs in Little Rock Milk, Philadelphia Drinking Water. Forbes. Retrieved on 22 February 2012.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Japanese Nuclear Emergency: Radiation Monitoring. EPA (30 June 2011). Retrieved on 23 February 2012.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Sandy Bauers (21 July 2011). Cancer patients’ urine suspected in Wissahickon iodine-131 levels. Philadelphia inquirer, Carbon County Groundwater Guardians. Retrieved on 25 February 2012.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 [1] Scott III, George L. (03-June-1997) US Patent No. 5635712: Method for monitoring the hydraulic fracturing of a subterranean formation. US Patent Publications.
  14. 14.0 14.1 [2] Fertl; Walter H. (15-Nov-1983) US Patent No. US4415805: Method and apparatus for evaluating multiple stage fracturing or earth formations surrounding a borehole. US Patent Publications.
  15. 15.0 15.1 [3] Scott III, George L. (15-Aug-1995) US Patent No. US5441110: System and method for monitoring fracture growth during hydraulic fracture treatment. US Patent Publications.
  16. Evaluation of Impacts to Underground Sources of Drinking Water by Hydraulic Fracturing of Coalbed Methane Reservoirs; National Study Final Report. EPA (June 2004). Retrieved on 23 February 2011.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Vaughan, Vicki (16 February 2012). Fracturing ‘has no direct’ link to water pollution, UT study finds. Retrieved on 3 March 2012.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Munro, Margaret (17 February 2012). Fracking does not contaminate groundwater: study released in Vancouver. Retrieved on 3 March 2012.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 19.8 19.9 Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development. Retrieved on 29 February 2012.
  20. Shell Oil Company Invests Nearly $4 Million in The University of Texas at Austin. UT Austin website (14 February 2012). Retrieved on 5 March 2012.
  21. Sandra Zaragoza (15 February 2012). "Shell Oil invests $3.9M in UT". Retrieved on 5 March 2012. 
  22. Brett Clanton (13 September 2011). "Shell, UT to study better shale production methods". Retrieved on 5 March 2011. 
  23. Halliburton Gives $90,000 in Grants to The University of Texas at Austin. UT Austin website (28 February 2007). Retrieved on 5 March 2012. “Energy services company Halliburton has contributed $90,000 to support academic programs at The University of Texas at Austin, bringing the company's total university giving to nearly $7 million.”
  24. Scott, Mark (17 October 2011). Norway’s Statoil to Acquire Brigham Exploration for $4.4 Billion. Dealb%k. New York Times. Retrieved on 4 March 2012.
  25. Barry Harrell (19 September 2011). "Norway-based energy company, UT agree on $5 million research program". Retrieved on 5 March 2012. 
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Ramanuja, Krishna (7 Martch 2012). Study suggests hydrofracking is killing farm animals, pets. Cornell Chronicle Online. Cornell University. Retrieved on 9 March 2012.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Alex Wayne (4 January 2012). "Health Effects of Fracking Need Study, Says CDC Scientist". Retrieved on 29 February 2012. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 David Wethe (19 January 2012). "Like Fracking? You'll Love 'Super Fracking'". Retrieved on 22 January 2012. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Mark Drajem (11 January 2012). "Fracking Political Support Unshaken by Doctors' Call for Ban". Retrieved on 19 January 2012. 
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