Government Report Links Gas Drilling To Pollution | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 51 | p. 29 | Concentrates
Issue Date: December 19, 2011

Government Report Links Gas Drilling To Pollution

Department: Government & Policy
Keywords: hydraulic fracturing, groundwater contamination

Chemicals used in natural gas extraction may be contaminating drinking water in a small Wyoming town, EPA says. A draft report released on Dec. 8 states that groundwater pollution in Pavillion, Wyo., is “likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing,” a drilling technique known as fracking that unlocks gas trapped in shale rock. EPA’s analysis of samples taken from an aquifer detected “methane, other petroleum hydrocarbons, and other chemical compounds,” such as glycols and alcohols, which are common components of fluids used in fracking. The report marks the first time that EPA has linked fracking chemicals to tainted water. Encana, which owns the Pavillion gas field, calls EPA’s findings “conjecture” that “only serve to trigger undue alarm.” It says the poor water quality is due to the area’s geology, in which naturally occurring sulfate and dissolved solids mix with the water supply. But Jessica Ennis, policy analyst at the law firm Earthjustice, says the draft “confirms what residents of the gas fields have been saying all along: The chemicals used in fracking can indeed migrate into groundwater.”

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