The drilling industry maintains that fracking is harmless to water supply, but scientific studies, including an old one by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), show otherwise. Fracking is the procedure whereby water, sand, and/or toxic chemicals are imbued to the ground to break up rocks and release natural gas. For years, settlements between landowners and energy companies have been sealed, making it impossible for the public to analyze documents which may show many more instances of water contamination by fracking than already discerned.
The EPA study revolves around contamination discovered in 1984 in West Virginia, on the property of Mr. James Parsons. The Kaiser Exploration and Mining Company used hydraulic fracturing fluids or gels that were ultimately found in Mr. Parson’s water well, along with natural gas. The water was rendered unusable. Though the American Petroleum Institute conceded this was a case of water contamination due to fracking, a spokesman averred that the important factor in that case was that the driller and regulator did not know about the nearby aquifer. Other scientific studies have found that patterns of fracking contamination can aggregate so severely that a faucet can be lit on fire, or a home or water well may blow up after gas seeps into the basement or water supply. The drilling industry and some state regulators described these other adverse fracking incidents as anecdotal, unconnected to drilling activity, or an isolated problem.
The oil and gas industry claims fracking is safe because the process occurs thousands of feet below drinking water aquifers. The Chief Executive of ExxonMobil has gone so far as to say at a Congressional hearing: “There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one, not one, reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated from hydraulic fracturing. Not one”. Clearly this is contrary to the EPA finding, which was published in 1987, as well as other documented instances in New York, Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.