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New NRDC fact sheet documents how fracking can contaminate drinking water sources

Amy Mall

Posted July 16, 2012

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A new NRDC fact sheet is now available on the NRDC website. Entitled: "Hydraulic Fracturing Can Potentially Contaminate Drinking Water Sources," the concise fact sheet explains the various risks that fracking poses to drinking water both on the surface and underground, and outlines the practices that are essential to minimize the risks of drinking water contamination.

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BSJul 16 2012 12:55 PM

While we certainly need to protect our water, I just want to share with your readers the list of chemicals found in fracking fluid. They are not nearly as "toxic" as some would like people to believe.

Most are either harmless or are hydrocarbons (not harmless, but basically the same stuff they're trying to produce from the well). Many of the chemicals used are even approved for use and widely used in the food we eat.

These chemicals are also used in very small quantities. The chemicals themselves apparently make up only about 0.5-2% of the fracking fluid.

Amy MallJul 16 2012 01:02 PM

BS: A report from the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that 750 chemicals are being used, and some are quite toxic:

BSJul 16 2012 07:11 PM

Depends on how you define toxic.

For example, in the article you linked to, you mention hydrofluoric acid. Sure, concentrated HF is quite toxic. However, we're talking about hypothetical contamination of groundwater. In that case, you'd have fracking fluid (with a very low concentration of HF), hypothetically finding it's way into groundwater, where it would be further diluted. The odds of it being toxic are basically nil.

As far as the hydrocarbons (which I already mentioned), they are basically the same things being produced from tens of thousands of oil wells around the country, except at a much lower concentration. So the presence in the fracking fluid does not present a new risk.

Bob ArringtonJul 16 2012 09:17 PM

The report goes to well construction and the old ploy "best management practices" comes into play. It is nomenclature that needs to be replaced with minimum standards of life of well construction. The present "BMP" ranges from top to bottom cementing to open annulus well bores. Coupled with the zone study, minimum standards of encounter must be developed with 3rd party review of records and logs. These standards must be adhered to by all companies with willful dereliction punishable by loss of lease(s) in unit. Certified baseline water sampling within 1/4 mile (and including existing water wells within the ΒΌ mile) of any proposed mineral well by bonded independent agency.
If contamination occurs, the well must be sealed from bottom end to ground level and water treatment facilities or water supply must be furnished as long as contamination continues and carried as a liability for the drilling company(s) involved and the state if regulatory exception was involved. Therefore, rules and enforcement must rise to federal level under the clean water act.

Amy MallJul 17 2012 11:28 AM

There have been examples of fracking fluid causing serious health and environmental harm, although the chemicals are diluted. One example is discussed here:

BSJul 17 2012 01:12 PM

I suspect there was more going on there than is coming across in the article you wrote. (And I in no way am implying I'm defending the oil company when I say that.) Also, the link to the story no longer works. So I won't comment on the specific incident.

But like I alluded to in my first comment, I'm not referring to how fracking fluid or produced water is handled at the surface. I'm only referring to the procedure itself and the supposed notion that fracking fluid could somehow contaminate groundwater on a large scale, thereby leading some to call for its use to be banned.

Fracking is safe.

What's done at the surface also needs to be done right, and I'm sure it is. After all, you did reach back to 2009 for your example. Thousands of wells have been fracked since then.

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