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Study: Fracking Elements Found in Sources of Drinking Water

Stanford University researchers have confirmed that hydraulic fracturing practices impacted a source of drinking water in the town of Pavillion, Wyo. (Pixabay)
Stanford University researchers have confirmed that hydraulic fracturing practices impacted a source of drinking water in the town of Pavillion, Wyo. (Pixabay)
April 5, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A Stanford University report has confirmed that toxic fracking chemicals ended up in a Wyoming town's source of drinking water, and suggests common industry practices may have widespread impacts.

The study examined sites near the town of Pavillion, Wyo., and found evidence of fluids dumped that contain diesel fuel, high chemical concentrations in unlined pits and inadequate barriers to protect groundwater.

Stanford University visiting scholar Dominic DiGiulio, the report's lead author, says the findings should be a wake-up call.

"In the Rocky Mountain area of the United States, water is a precious resource, and I think we need to protect those resources for future use," he says. "And the concern about hydraulic fracturing is that it's not clear whether those resources are being protected."

Hydraulic fracturing became the only industry legally allowed to inject toxic chemicals into underground sources of drinking water when Congress exempted it from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005.

Concerns about fracking have rocked the U.S. political landscape and communities around the country.

In a draft report last year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that fracking posed no serious threats to drinking water, but recently the agency's own advisory board challenged those conclusions and said the impacts at Pavillion, and sites in Pennsylvania and Texas, deserve more attention.

DiGiulio says the geologic and groundwater conditions at Pavillion are not unique in the Rocky Mountain region.

"We need to look at other oil and gas fields throughout the Rocky Mountain areas, and try and get some better idea as to what the potential there is for contamination of water resources," he says.

To avoid future contamination, DiGiulio says a database is needed to show fracking activities near aquifers.

He adds the EPA also should consider enforcing existing rules that make it illegal to inject chemicals into groundwater, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY