Could fracking harm drinking water?

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

An advocacy organization is launching a research effort to determine whether the practice of fracking could harm drinking water.

Environment America wants answers it claims the fracking industry has failed to provide, specifically whether the controversial drilling technique will seep toxic chemicals into drinking water supplies.

From the start, the fracking boom has been based on denying the public’s right to know about the health risks — starting with the Halliburton Loophole enacted during the Bush administration exempting fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Margie Alt, of Environment America, said in an e-mail.

A study published last week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may challenge Alt’s claim that frackers are withholding information.

According to the study, conducted by professors from Dartmouth, Duke and Stanford, water contamination near fracking sites is more likely caused by faulty, leaky wells, not fracking.

The study also shows that fracking occurs almost 2 miles below aquifers, meaning drinking water seepage would be a rare, if not non-existent, problem. However, that hasn’t stopped 24 states from banning fracking altogether, leaving municipalities left out as the practice revolutionizes the United States energy industry.

As of 2014, fracking has created close to 2 million jobs and has all but eliminated unemployment in states like North Dakota that have embraced it. This summer, North Dakota had the lowest jobless rate in the country, at 2.8 percent, reported Casey Given, of Young Voices.

That’s not a safe trade, Alt says.

The oil and gas industry doesn’t want us to know the truth because if communities knew the truth about fracking, they wouldn’t allow it,” Alt said. “But, with fracking spreading all over the country, we have a right to know. Several years ago, the oil and gas industry claimed they’d stopped using diesel. But in 2011, a congressional inquiry revealed that they’d used at least 32 million gallons of fracking fluid containing diesel fuel in 19 states from 2005 to 2009. Are they still using diesel now? We have no idea.”

Those interested in donating to the organization’s drinking water research project can find information at the Environment America website, environmentamerica.org.

From the Sept. 24-30, 2014, issue

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