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Two studies show fracking has no negative effect on water quality or waste

October 16, 2015 - Health & Safety News - Industry News Fracking is unlikely to contaminate drinking water, a new study finds.

Two new studies released in September from prestigious American universities examined the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing and found its impact on both water use and quality to be minimal.

Hydraulic fracturing unlikely to contaminate drinking water

"None of the samples violated any state or federal drinking water standards."

A new study from Yale University found contamination of drinking water due to hydraulic fracturing is not common.

The study, which looked at wells near the Marcellus Shale in northeastern Pennsylvania, found no evidence that trace contamination found in the drinking water wells came from hydraulic fracturing shale horizons, underground storage tanks or surface waste containment ponds, nor was it cause by wall casing failures, according to a release from the university.

The Yale study examined water samples from 64 private wells located near natural gas production sites. None of the samples the Yale team collected showed a high presence of fracking chemicals nor violated any state or federal drinking water standards. While a few samples showed some contamination, the Yale team reported the levels were minor and only detectable through the use of sophisticated methods and sensitive instruments.

"Even using that word contamination is a stretch because when these detections were made, they were still at very low concentrations,"Desiree Plata, a Yale assistant professor who worked on the study, told NPR News.

Despite the low levels, the Yale team did trace the contamination and determined it came from chemical runoff at production sites, not from underground. Runoff at production sites is easy to clean up and control, the Yale team determined, and Plata told NPR the findings were good news.

The Yale study was the largest of its kind and collected samples covering a distance of more than 7,400 square kilometers over the course of three years. The results will be published in National Academy of Sciences journal.

Fracking wastes less water than other energy methods

"Fracking is far less water intensive than underground coal and uranium mining."

A separate study from Duke University examined the use of water in hydraulic fracturing and determined the process is responsible for less than 1 percent of worldwide industrial water waste.

The Duke study examined data from 2005-2014 and concluded fracking is far less water intensive than underground coal and uranium mining or oil recovery enhancement extraction, which may use up to 13 times more water.

According to Avner Vengosh, a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University, this study was the first comprehensive look at the hydraulic fracturing industry's water usage.

"Water use and wastewater production are two of the chief environmental concerns voiced about hydraulic fracturing," Vengosh said in a statement. "Yet until now we've had only a fragmented and incomplete understanding of how much water is actually being used, and how much wastewater is being produced."

The Duke study examined data from government and industry sources throughout the U.S. and at the 10 major shale gas or tight oil basins in the country, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The report was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. 

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