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article imageOil companies fracking dangerously close to water sources

By Mike Rossi     Aug 28, 2014 in Environment
According to a new study performed by researches at Stanford University, oil and gas companies are fracking much closer to underground water sources than previously thought.
The research — led by Robert Jackson, professor of Environmental Earth System Science and research associate, Dominic DiGiulio — examined two Wyoming gas fields, Wind River and Fort Union, currently under exploration via hydraulic fracturing.
Fracking, as it's more commonly known, refers to the the process by which companies or individuals access previously unreachable pockets of oil and natural gas. By injecting millions of gallons of liquid — typically water infused with a slurry of chemicals, sand and aluminum oxide — under pressure into well-bores, prospectors can crack dense subterranean rock formations allowing precious hydrocarbons to flow more freely towards the surface.
Though a large percentage of the chemical additives used for fracking are generally considered "harmless," an uncomfortable number are "known carcinogens and neurotoxins."
Despite this, hydraulic fracturing is lightly regulated by federal authorities.
It enjoys large exemptions from the 1974 Safe Water Drinking Act and important protections from the 2005 Energy Policy Act, including — unbelievably — legal authority to frack into underground water resources.
In spite of its legality, fracking industry leaders deny ever needing to fracture anywhere near sources of drinking water because, as they've put it, rich oil and gas deposits sit at much greater depths (typically thousands of feet) than relatively shallow aquifers (typically no more than 750 feet).
However, as Jackson and DiGiulio illustrate, companies operating in the Wyoming regions of the study employed fracking processes at depths as shallow as 700 feet — well within the reach of subterranean drinking water resources.
Taking that into consideration, it's important to note the research released by the Stanford team did not find the drinking water near the Wind River or Fort Union sites to be contaminated. But DiGiulio did conclude the activity of the hydraulic fracturing industry is "poorly documented, hindering assessments of potential resource damage and human exposure,”
In plain speak, their study confirms fracking is taking place at much shallower depths than previously thought and there is little in the way of data to accurately predict the potential human, let alone environmental, costs for such dangerous practices.
For now, legislators do not plan on increasing federal oversight on the more than 1 million hydraulic fracturing operations currently taking place in the United States.
More about Oil and gas, Fracking, La times, Water, Epa
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