Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is a process used by oil and gas companies to extract energy sources from the rocks in which they are locked. The sources are unlocked by inserting water mixed with a wide array of chemicals into the ground under high pressure. The concern about fracking has always been that chemically contaminated water will make its way into underground drinking water supplies, but energy industry officials have insisted the practice is safe. Now, thanks to a three year study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) there is concrete evidence to refute industry assertions.
Central Wyoming residents living in proximity to the Pavillion Field, a fracking site owned by Encana Oil & Gas, commissioned the EPA to study the safety of their water sources and the regional fracking practices in 2008, when they began to notice their water had a strange smell and taste. Results from the study showed that the fracking practices at the site were unusual; of particular concern was the fact that the Pavillion Field gas wells were shallower than most, a practice which could allow natural gas to seep up on its own, potentially contaminating aquifers used for drinking water supplies.
When water samples were tested, the EPA found many contaminants whose presence could not be attributed to natural causes. Synthetic chemicals like glycols and alcohols (typically added to fracking fluids) were present, in addition to concentrations of benzene well above the amount allowed by the EPA. Methane levels in the water were also high; methane is the main component of natural gas.
Despite the EPA's irrefutable findings of fracking-related substances contaminating drinking sources, Doug Hock, company spokesperson for Encana said, "What we have is not a conclusion, but a probability—and based on the facts, not a good probability." The governor of Wyoming (a state whose economy depends heavily on oil and gas drilling) also questioned the validity of the EPA's conclusions, calling them "scientifically questionable" and stating that they were not based on enough data, despite three years of research. He called for the EPA to conduct further testing before making any conclusions about the relative safety of fracking.
Residents of regions where fracking occurs regularly have long suspected that the process put their health and the safety of their drinking supplies at risk. Without any hard evidence to support their fears, however, those concerns were largely ignored. Even now, despite clear EPA findings that a link does exist between fracking practices and water contamination, energy and government officials are still unwilling to ban fracking and lose the revenue created by the dangerous gas retrieval method. Such greed is bound to lead to further contamination of natural resources and an increase in illnesses related to environmental pollutants.
If you or a loved one has gotten ill or experienced land damage as a result of negligent fracking practices like those in Wyoming, you may be entitled to compensation. An environmental attorney can advocate on your behalf, potentially securing financial compensation and forcing offending parties to restore land and water sources to their original state. Arnold & Itkin has experience representing land contamination cases, and our attorneys would be happy to review the facts in your case. Contact our office today and receive a free consultation from a member of our team.