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for people who care about the West

Latest: Peer-reviewed study undermines fracking’s claims of safety

Researchers in Pavillion, Wyoming, traced the chemical footprint of the drilling.

 

BACKSTORY
In 2005, a Pavillion, Wyoming, landowner suspected that his drinking water well had been contaminated by nearby natural gas drilling. An Environmental Protection Agency investigation found chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing in the aquifer but couldn’t rule out other sources of the pollution, such as waste pits from past drilling (“Hydrofracked: One man’s quest for answers about natural gas drilling,HCN, 6/27/11). In 2013, the EPA dropped its study following criticism from industry, regulators and congressional Republicans.

FOLLOWUP
A peer-reviewed paper released in late March by Stanford University scientists analyzed reams of data — gathered by the EPA and other sources in Pavillion — to provide the first-ever unequivocal link between fracking and groundwater contamination. The key evidence is a suite of organic chemicals detected in the aquifer that “are a virtual fingerprint of compounds used for hydraulic fracturing,” says lead author Dominic DiGiulio. Industry downplays the findings. “I would call this speculation or theory,” says Doug Hock, an Encana spokesman.