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Drinking Water Threatened by Oil & Gas Production Technique

APRIL 13, 2005 – A widely-used oil and gas production technique is threatening drinking water supplies in many states and should be regulated to protect human health and property values, a panel of experts said today.

During a national teleconference discussion on “hydraulic fracturing” (also known as “fracking”), an Environmental Protection Agency whistle-blower joined municipal water managers, geochemists and private landowners from across the country in calling on Congress and the EPA to protect drinking water supplies from fracking.  The technique has impacted drinking water supplies in at least three states.

“The EPA has a responsibility to protect drinking water supplies from avoidable contamination,” said Weston Wilson, a senior EPA engineer in Denver.  “EPA has not provided ample evidence to prove that fracking does not affect drinking water supplies.”

Hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique used in 90 percent of oil and gas wells, involves the injection of fluids into oil and gas wells at high pressure.  The fluids break up rock formations that contain oil and gas, allowing the minerals to flow to the surface.  The fluids sometimes include hazardous chemicals, some of which remain in the ground.

In a letter to Colorado's Congressional delegation last year, Wilson wrote that EPA knew that fracturing fluids contained toxic components, suggesting that drinking water could be at risk. 

A report released today by the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), an industry watchdog group, catalogues the information EPA left out of its study.  “EPA had information showing that numerous chemicals are injected at concentrations that threaten human health, but they chose to leave that information out of their final study,” said Lisa Sumi, Research Director with OGAP.  “Sound science means including all the data so others can examine your conclusions.  EPA can not pick and chose data that supports a politically-driven conclusion.”

“Americans rely on the EPA to protect their drinking water from contamination,” said Dr. Theo Colborn, a specialist in environmental health issues and director of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, a public health advocacy group.  “Because of the hazards posed by fracking, EPA has a moral obligation to regulate that activity to protect human health and drinking water.”