Peacock Tales • Summer 2011


Will It Still Be Safe to Drink the Water?

That’s one question that’s been in the news over the past two years, as an increasing number of drilling companies use hydraulic fracturing -- commonly called “fracking” -- across the United States.

On June 23, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan to study the potential effects of fracking on the quality of drinking water. Washington County is one of three sites in Pennsylvania that were chosen for the study. The congressionally mandated study will also include Bradford and Susquehanna Counties, as well as sites in Colorado, North Dakota and Texas.

Fracking is a technique used to stimulate the flow of gas that would otherwise be trapped within the gas- bearing shale formations. Water, sand and a small amount of chemical lubricants are forced into the shale formation, which creates cracks in the formations, thereby releasing the gas and facilitating its capture. Fracking has been used in the development of natural gas for nearly 30 years. Companies have expanded its use in recent years to extract abundant but more difficult to reach reserves of gas shale.

The investigation will study the impact on residential water wells in places where fracking has already taken place. Additionally, the fracking process will be studied throughout the life cycle of a well. The multi-year investigation of the possible link between the fracking process and groundwater contamination will begin this summer and conclude in 2014. An interim review is expected in 2012.

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