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EPA Report Suggests “Fracking” May Cause Groundwater Contamination

The issue of hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") has been hot topic of late, in no small part because of the search for cheaper, more reliable sources of domestic energy. Fracking refers to the process by which pressurized water or fluids are injected into a geologic formation in order to create fractures in the rock that will permit the release of oil or natural gas. There has been some controversy over fracking, with particular concern about the fracking fluids that are sometimes used in these injections. Some are concerned that fracking fluids could lead to groundwater or drinking water contamination. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") gave those claims greater merit.

On December 8, 2011, the EPA released a draft groundwater analysis from a fracking site at Pavillion, Wyoming. The residents of Pavillion get their water from private potable drinking water wells. Investigations began in Pavillion three years ago in order to address water quality concerns, especially in light of the nearby gas fields. The EPA constructed two deep monitoring wells to sample water in the aquifer and found compounds likely associated with gas production practices, such as fracking. Private and public drinking water wells in the area were "generally" below health and safety standards, per the EPA.

The EPA was careful to note that these findings were specific to Pavillion, where fracking is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells, conditions which are different from those present elsewhere in the United States. Nevertheless, the concerns about fracking and its impact on groundwater and drinking water supplies are sure to continue. The draft EPA report is available for public comment, and additional materials will be forthcoming.

The attorneys at Lieberman & Blecher have significant experience in groundwater and drinking water related matters and will be following these interesting developments. You can visit our website, blog or social networking pages to stay apprised of the developments.

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