US EPA says Fracking can Harm Drinking Water In Some Circumstances

The  US EPA’s snappily titled Study of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources, was recently published. The abstract notes: “EPA found scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances. The report identifies certain conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe:” and in it’s conclusions states:

“In the near term, decision-makers could focus their attention on the combinations of hydraulic fracturing water cycle activities and local- or regional scale factors that are more likely than others to result in more frequent or more severe impacts. These include:

Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;

Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;

Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;

Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;

Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources;

Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.”


While some have interpreted this report as a condemnation of fracking, a more reasoned reading might be that much of the report could be summarised by saying that if you do not do things properly it may not turn out well, please excuse the pun. Driving an unroadworthy car in a careless way is dangerous but we do not jump from that statement of the obvious to the conclusion that we should ban all motor vehicles.

This report certainly provides food for thought for all involved. With the benefit of learning from the American experience this report should provide more information for those working to ensure fracking is undertaken with the minimum risk. My concern is does the Environment agency have the resource and personnel to effectively monitor fracking in the UK?