Duke Study Finds Fracking Isn’t Contaminating Groundwater

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, isn’t contaminating groundwater in West Virginia, a study published Monday by scientists at Duke University concludes.

Duke’s study found that environmentalists were wrong to blame groundwater contamination on fracking, since contamination from methane and salts was present before fracking occurred in the region. The findings strongly suggest samples occurred naturally in the region’s shallow aquifers and were not the result of the recent contamination from fracking.

“Based on consistent evidence from comprehensive testing, we found no indication of groundwater contamination over the three-year course of our study,” Dr. Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke, said in a press statement. “The bottom-line assessment is that groundwater is so far not being impacted, but surface water is more readily contaminated because of the frequency of spills.”

Vengosh and other scientists concluded that industrial processes used to support fracking may pose a small risk of spills on the surface, but that fracking hasn’t contaminated groundwater in the area.

Duke researchers collaborated with other scientists from Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Stanford University to sample water from 112 drinking wells in northwestern West Virginia over a three-year period. They sampled 20 drinking water wells before fracking began in the area to compare.

Duke’s new research matches the findings of other scientific studies from regulatory bodiesacademics, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) which determined that fracking hasn’t contaminated ground or drinking water. Even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which wants to regulate fracking using groundwater contamination as an excuse, still hasn’t found any groundwater contamination after five years of study.

Even scientists whose research was directly financed by environmentalists couldn’t find evidence that fracking contaminates groundwater.

“Our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Amy Townsend-Small, the study’s lead researcher, told Newsweek in last April. “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.”

Environmentalists responded to these studies, saying, “millions of Americans know that fracking contaminates groundwater and for the EPA to report any differently only proves that the greatest contamination from the industry comes from its influence and ownership of our government.”

Myths about fracking are so widespread that the USGS actually maintains a “Myths and Misconceptions” section of its website to debunk them.

Up to 96 percent of wastewater from fracking is from naturally occurring salts and brines, not artificial fracking fluids, another study published by Duke University concluded. Duke researchers found that between 92 and 96 percent of wastewater coming out of fracking wells was comprised of naturally occurring brines and salts, which were extracted along with the gas and oil. Only about 4 to 8 percent of the wastewater included man-made chemicals.

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