The Internet is alive today after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report that indicates hydraulic fracturing (used when drilling for natural gas in tight shale formations) can contaminate groundwater. Residents of Pavillion, WY have been complaining about the state of their groundwater for some time now. The draft EPA report lends credibility to their claims with the finding that chemicals associated with the process were found in some deep water aquifers in the area. And when you look at all of the evidence around this issue – outside of the EPA’s study – the results are even more ‘ground-breaking.’
Having said that, there are a few questions regarding the EPA report/research. No field study could ever account for all of the potential confounders and variables – especially given the amount of resources the EPA had at its disposal to conduct this work. However, some of the most significant questions that I would like to see answered before this draft is finalized include:
- How representative is the data from the two monitoring wells in relation to residents’ drinking water wells?
- Has the potential for surface contamination of the monitoring wells been ruled out?
- Why weren’t the duplicate samples that were analyzed by separate labs also able to detect 2-BE?
These questions (and surely more) are exactly why this is only a draft report. According to the EPA, it will be available for a 45-day public comment period. A subsequent 30-day peer-review process will be led by a panel of independent scientists to ensure that the results that stay on the records are accurate.