New testing on water sources near Pavillion, Wyo., has found traces of chemicals, gases, and other compounds that are commonly used in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process.
According to a Bloomberg report, the new tests confirmed what the Environmental Protection Agency previously found. Late last year, the EPA linked the presence of these contaminants in exploratory wells it dug to nearby fracking activity.
This was the first time any branch of the federal government linked fracking drilling to contamination of underground water aquifers that were able to contaminate groundwater and eventually public and private water supplies. The natural gas company that dominates the fracking activity in that Wyoming area, Encana Corp., argued that the EPA’s assertions were untrue. Until then, they’ve been successful in preventing any state or federal government from linking the drilling to contamination of any kind in the past, allowing it to openly explore shale formations for natural gas deposits.
To confirm the EPA’s earlier findings, the new testing conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey discovered the presence of methane and ethane gas, diesel gas compounds, and phenol in water samples it conducted in the vicinity of Encana’s wells near Pavillion.
An outside expert told Bloomberg that initial glances of the USGA surveys show that the EPA’s stance last year, that contaminants used or created by the fracking process are finding their way into water aquifers and putting clean water supplies at risk, have been confirmed. The discovery of “very high” levels of methane, ethane, and propane in the water supplies suggests that something other than natural causes was putting these gases in water supplies.
At the same time the USGA was working to confirm or rebut the EPA’s findings of late last year, the federal environmental agency was also conducting tests of tap water supplies in the area near Pavillion, where residents have long contested that fracking activity was putting their safe drinking water supplies at risk. The EPA has not released the findings of the tests it conducted on tap water this year.
The agency is supposed to be finalizing a study that examines the benefits and pitfalls created by fracking drilling but the final report has been delayed umpteen times, presumably due to industry pressures that the EPA uphold a previous energy bill that allows fracking activity to be conducted without much regulation at all from the federal government.
As those reports are delayed time and time again, those living in areas where fracking activity has increased or is being proposed, especially in the Mid Atlantic states and into the Ohio Valley, face similar roadblocks at the local level.
Fracking has also been speculated as the cause of water contamination in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. In states where wastewater from fracking is pumped into high-pressure underground injection wells, minor earthquakes have resulted.
Despite the insistence of many residents directly impacted by what they believe is the negative side of fracking drilling, they’ve found very little help at the state or federal government levels, even when their tap water supplies have been contaminated beyond safe use.