EPA Releases Draft Assessment on the Potential Impacts to Drinking Water Resources from Hydraulic Fracturing Activities
hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic
impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important
vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing a draft assessment
today 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
assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and
industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to
protect public health and their drinking water resources,” said Dr.
Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant
Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “It is the
most complete compilation of scientific data to date, including over 950
sources of information, published papers, numerous technical reports,
information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports.”
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;
conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
inadequately cased or
cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
and spills of hydraulic
fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and
Also released today were
nine peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports (www.epa.gov/hfstudy).
These reports were a part of EPA’s overall hydraulic fracturing drinking
water study and contributed to the findings outlined in the draft
assessment. Over 20 peer-reviewed articles or reports were published as
part of this study [http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/published-scientific-papers].
States play a primary
role in regulating most natural gas and oil development. EPA’s authority
is limited by statutory or regulatory exemptions under the Clean Water
Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation and Liability Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act. Where EPA’s exemptions exist, states may have authority to regulate
unconventional oil and gas extraction activities under their own state
EPA’s draft assessment
benefited from extensive stakeholder engagement conducted across the
country with states, tribes, industry, non-governmental organizations, the
scientific community and the public to ensure that the draft assessment
reflects current practices in hydraulic fracturing and utilizes all data
and information available to the agency.
The study will be
finalized after review by the Science Advisory Board and public review and
comment. The Federal Register Notice with information on the SAB review
and how to comment on the draft assessment will be published on Friday
June 5, 2015.