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Washington DC — In a watershed moment, today EPA announced fracking does pollute drinking water with the release of  the draft final version of its study of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas and Its Potential Impact on Drinking Water Resources. Congress commissioned the study in 2010 in response to increasing public questions about the risks posed to drinking water by the unconventional oil and gas boom.

In 2004, an EPA study concluded that hydraulic fracturing does not threaten drinking water. From that conclusion, Congress exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act. The 2004 study was maligned within the EPA and by independent scientists. The current study was intended to revisit the conclusions of the 2004 study.

“Today EPA confirmed what communities living with fracking have known for years, fracking pollutes drinking water,” said Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel. She continued, “Now the Obama administration, Congress, and state governments must act on that information to protect our drinking water, and stop perpetuating the oil and gas industry’s myth that fracking is safe.”

Through its own research conducted between 2008 and 2010, EPA knew fracking very likely polluted groundwater in Pavillion, WY, Weatherford, TX, and Dimock, PA. EPA’s conclusions in today’s announcement was based on new case studies and found several contamination pathways and vulnerabilities, including well failures and blowouts, toxic surface spills to ground and surface water, and inadequately treated wastewater.

One of the most important parts of the original study was to be “forward looking studies”: tests of wells before and after fracking to determine if it polluted area drinking water. These forward looking studies were ultimately dropped because industry refused to cooperate.   

“Industry data and independent studies tell us that 1 – 6% of unconventional fracked wells fail immediately, meaning tens of thousands of failed wells litter our country. Despite industry’s obstruction, EPA found that fracking pollutes water in a number of ways. That’s why industry didn’t cooperate, they know fracking is an inherently risky, dirty process that doesn’t bear close, independent examination.”

EPA will circulate this draft final to the study Science Advisory Board for peer review, and to the public for comment. Based upon that review, EPA will make final revisions to the study prior to final publication.