As natural gas drilling continues to expand across Ohio and the rest of the country, many still have questions about whether the process threatens drinking water resources. Over the past year, the US Environmental Protection Agency has launched an extensive research project to answer that question. Ideastream’s Michelle Kanu has an update on their progress.
The EPA says they’re conducting 18 research projects into hydraulic fracturing— where water, sand and chemicals are blasted into the earth to release natural gas. And they’re looking at several aspects of fracking, from gathering water for the process to treating the wastewater that comes back up to the surface after drilling is complete.
While EPA officials have declined to comment further beyond their published update, environmental advocacy groups are watching their progress closely.
Dusty Horwitt is a senior counsel with Environmental Working Group, a research organization based in DC. He says the EPA’s research project needs to be broad because it is difficult to prove the exact source of water contamination.
Horwitt: “There are so many different points in the process that could potentially cause pollution, geology and hydrology is going to be different in different parts of the country. We don’t know in many cases exactly what chemicals the industry is using in its fracking process so that adds a level of difficulty to the research.”
Horwitt says there are few scientific studies of hydraulic fracturing that involve actual testing of water quality before and after drilling, so that should be a key part of the EPA’s efforts.
The EPA plans to release a final draft of the study for public comment in late 2014.