On June 4, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a study and found no systemic pollution to drinking water resources as a result of fracking. The release of this research speaks volumes regarding the effectiveness of the current safety features in place during the hydraulic fracturing process.
"Researchers primarily wanted to address public concerns."
Congress requested the EPA conduct the study to determine whether fracking has any impact on the quality as well as the quantity of water sources used for drinking.
Researchers primarily wanted to address public concerns and provide the public with information regarding how the fracking process impacted other natural resources available underground.
Fracking is a technique used to increase the production of oil and gas. By injecting fluids into underground rock formations at high pressures, this process opens up the oil- and gas-producing formations and allows these resources to flow to the surface through the small fractures created.
In the study, EPA researchers examined whether the fracking fluids, chemicals and wastewater used to keep these fractures open compromised the quality of underground drinking water sources. The study evaluated the impact on drinking water, and every step during the fracking process was evaluated.
"The implementation and effective practice of current safety precautions prevented widespread contamination of water"
"We conclude there are above and below ground mechanisms by which hydraulic fracturing activities have the potential to impact drinking water resources," the EPA said in the report. However, "we did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources."
Water acquisition, chemical mixing, well injection, flowback and produced water, wastewater treatment and the disposal of waste were all thoroughly assessed during the study. The study evaluated both currently used drinking water resouces as well as any sources that might be usined in the future.
Based on the results gathered from this study, the implementation and effective practice of current safety precautions prevented widespread contamination of water. The findings indicated contaminated water resources are rare when hydraulic fracturing takes place.
This study has helped paint a more complete picture of fracking as well as ensure the current precautions in place are successfully protecting natural resources.
"EPA's draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking," said Thomas A. Burke, EPA's top science advisor, according to a press release from EPA, "It is the most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950 sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports."
No further regulations anticipated
Following the results of the study, regulatory changes to the industry are less likely, according to Bloomberg Business.
"The EPA fracking study does not appear likely to spur additional federal water regulation beyond initiatives that are already in process," said Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, according to Bloomberg.
In addition, any legislation pertaining to the fracking industry that has yet to be voted on is likely to fall through. The results do not provide any information that would support the implementation of new regulations formerly proposed. Based on the report, fracking proved to be a safe process. Fortunately, the current safety precautions sufficiently protect drinking water wells.
The study bodes well for the future of the fracking industry. As a safe and efficient way to access resources that are crucial to society, hydraulic fracturing will continue to be the most effective mechanism for extracting oil and natural gas from shale deposits.
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