DOE Fracking Study: Chemicals Didn't Taint the Water

The Longmont Times reported in July that a landmark Department of Energy (DOE) study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process are linked with contaminating drinking water aquifers.  After a year of monitoring a site in western Pennsylvania, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said. Although the results are preliminary (the study is still ongoing) they are the first independent look at whether the potentially toxic chemicals pose a threat to people during normal drilling operations. But DOE researchers view the study as just one part of ongoing efforts to examine the impacts of a recent boom in oil and gas exploration, not a final answer about the risks. Drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected more than 8,000 feet below the surface at the gas well bore but weren't detected in a monitoring zone at a depth of 5,000 feet. The researchers also tracked the maximum extent of the man-made fractures, and all were at least 6,000 feet below the surface. That means the potentially dangerous substances stayed about a mile away from surface drinking water supplies, which are usually at depths of less than 500 feet.