The EPA finds fracturing activities don’t have widespread impact on drinking water - SSCI Environmental

After studying more than 950 sources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources. The agency released a draft assessment of its findings June 4, 2015.

Potential water vulnerabilities still exist, though, said Thomas A. Burke, the EPA’s science advisor and deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

“Drinking water may be vulnerable to impacts. We feel very confident in our findings…the study was not, nor was it intended to be, a catalog of all instances of contamination,” Burke said.

What this means for you

The report isn’t likely to lessen pressure from environmental activities on companies that engage in fracturing activities. But it does support the argument from companies that the risks to drinking water sources from those activities is small. SSCI can use the report data when we investigate a drinking-water issue, either from the oil company’s or the consumer’s point of view.

Congressional concerns

The study was intended to identify vulnerabilities so the country could take measures to reduce risks and better protect its water. Congress had requested the study of the water used for fracturing, starting with the acquisition of the water, chemical mixing at the well, injection of fracturing fluids, the collection of fracturing wastewater and wastewater treatment and disposal.

The study looked at water resources being used as drinking water and other water resources that could potentially be used as drinking water in the future. The study is not a human health risk assessment, Burke pointed out.

The EPA’s review found specific instances where well integrity and wastewater management affected drinking water, but the agency noted the instances were small compared with “the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country.”

SSCI can help

For oil companies that want to protect themselves before and during hydraulic fracturing activities, SSCI can do a pre-inspection to document environmental conditions, do health and safety inspections, write spill plans, train workers and investigate spill incidents.