Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fracking and Groundwater Contamination: Conclusions Unclear

The EPA and USGS have been working on a site in Fremont County, near Pavillion WY to gather groundwater samples, looking for contamination from hydraulic fracturing.  This site is near a very small agricultural site, where fracking has been taking place since the 1960's.  In terms of having a site with a long history to trace infiltration, it's probably a good choice.  On the other hand, it would seem like much of the fracturing activity was probably fairly artisanal for much of the period.  To use this site as a comparison for larger commercial sites, using the best engineering practice, might not be the best choice.

I prefer to look at USGS reports in preference to EPA reports, which have much more of an overtly ideological tone.  USGS reports suffer from the opposite problem: they are geeky to the lab rat level, and words are generally kept to a minimum.  It comes from being written by geological survey engineers or by hired engineering companies.  Here's a link to the USGS report on Pavillion.

This report seems broadly inconclusive about groundwater contamination from fracking. If I have any engineers among my blog readership, I would welcome  comments. Overall, the quality of the groundwater itself is not the best for drinking.  There is a presence of diesel related compounds, but this isn't surprising in farmland where there is probably non-compliant disposal of fuels and lubricants for machinery and small motors.  The compounds usually associated with fracking don't seem to have high concentrations.

The Federal government should have a much more thorough, focused and transparent program for coming to a rational assessment of the risks of hydraulic fracturing for hydrocarbons.  We are not there at all. 

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