An Associated Press (AP) investigation has confirmed complaints about well-water contamination from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other oil and gas drilling in four states.
The boom in hydraulic fracturing in the last ten years has produced an accompanying increase in concern about water contamination and other forms of pollution. The AP examined data on drilling-related water-contamination complaints in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas, states with numerous fracking sites, Aljazeera America reports.
Pennsylvania officials received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells; 499 such complaints came in 2012, according to the AP investigation. The Pennsylvania complaints included reports of diminished water flow, as well as pollution from gas or other substances. In the past five years, more than 100 cases of pollution were confirmed, and four eastern Pennsylvania families reached a $1.6 million settlement with a drilling company over well contamination, Aljazeera America reports.
To release reserves of oil and natural gas from deep inside shale formations, hundreds of thousands of gallons of highly pressurized water, sand, and chemicals are pumped into the ground to break apart the shale, Aljazeera America explains. Water that returns to the surface can contain high levels of salt, chemicals, heavy metals, and naturally occurring low-level radiation, and this water can contaminate nearby wells, streams and reservoirs. Environmentalists have expressed persistent concerns about the dangers of air, soil, and water pollution inherent in the fracking process and concern about the safe disposal of the used water.
The Pennsylvania data collected in the AP investigation shows 18 confirmed cases of water-well contamination in 2011 and five confirmed cases in the first nine months of 2012. Ohio had two confirmed cases of contamination in 2011 and two in 2012. For 2013, there are two confirmed contamination complaints and 14 still under investigation. West Virginia reports about 122 drilling-contamination complaints over the past four years, with four cases in which the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said, according to Aljazeera America. Texas officials have not confirmed any cases of drilling-related water contamination in the last decade.