The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft assessment on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources in the United States. The assessment, done at the request of Congress, shows that while hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources, there are potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water. The assessment follows the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal [http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/hydraulic-fracturing-water-cycle].
EPA’s review of data sources available to the agency found specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources, but they were small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing, to drinking water resources, but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts.
These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:
• water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
• hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
• inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
• inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
• and spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.
For a copy of the DRAFT Assessment, visit www.epa.gov/hfstudy.
To submit comments on the report, see www.epa.gov/sab.
Additional information on the study is available by contacting Matthew R. Colip, State and Congressional Liaison, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region III, 1650 Arch St (3CR00), Philadelphia, PA 19103. Phone: 215.814.5439.
VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE