EPA Releases Draft Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing Impacts to Drinking Water Sources

On June 4, EPA released its “Draft Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources.”  The assessment is based on EPA’s study and follows the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal.  State regulators, tribes, local communities, and industry can use the information in the assessment to identify the best ways to protect public health and their drinking water resources from hydraulic fracturing practices.

EPA’s assessment found some specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources, but these numbers were relatively small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, though some are not unique to hydraulic fracturing.

These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:

  • Water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • Hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • Inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  • Inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and
  • Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

The Federal Register Notice with information on the SAB review and how to comment on the draft assessment will be published on Friday June 5, 2015.  For a copy of the study, visit www.epa.gov/hfstudy.  To submit comments on the report, go to:  http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/fedrgstr_activites/HF%20Drinking%20Water%20Assessment?OpenDocument

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