Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found in Drinking Water Near Texas Fracking Sites

Energy

On June 4, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on how fracking for oil and gas can impact access to safe drinking water. Although the report claims not to have found any “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States," a new study in Texas provides more evidence that contamination of drinking water from fracking might be occurring.

With thousands of fracking operations, the Dallas-Fort Worth area's drinking water supply could be contaminated. Photo credit: Daniel Foster/Creative Commons

A research team at the University of Texas at Arlington has published a peer-reviewed studyA Comprehensive Analysis of Groundwater Quality in the Barnett Shale Region, in Environmental Science & Technology, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The heavily fracked Barnett shale region, with more than 20,000 wells, covers a swath of counties in north Texas surrounding the populous Dallas-Fort Worth area. It also sits beneath two major aquifers.

"The exploration of unconventional shale energy reserves and the extensive use of hydraulic fracturing during well stimulation have raised concerns about the potential effects of unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOG) on the environment," the authors write. "Most accounts of groundwater contamination have focused primarily on the compositional analysis of dissolved gases to address whether UOG activities have had deleterious effects on overlying aquifers. Here, we present an analysis of 550 groundwater samples collected from private and public supply water wells drawing from aquifers overlying the Barnett shale formation of Texas."

The team, led by UT Arlington chemistry professor Kevin Schug, found elevated levels of 10 metals and 19 chemicals as well as high levels of ethanol and methanol. The chemical compounds found included benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes, which have been associated with a range of negative health impacts including cancer. Schug said that his team's work was "the most comprehensive groundwater study in connection to this whole process.”

“The University of Texas, working independent of the oil and gas industry, found evidence of widespread groundwater pollution connected to fracking," said Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel. "The EPA, working for years with the oil and gas industry to study the same issue, managed not to find that evidence in its study released earlier this month. Perhaps that’s because President Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy requires favoring oil and gas over the clean, renewable energy our communities and water really need.”

In Texas, the battle over fracking is particularly heated. In response to the city of Denton, which is located in the Barnett shale region just north of Dallas/Fort Worth, voting to ban new fracking operations in last November's election, the state passed legislation outlawing such bans.

“Fracking water pollution isn’t a surprise to people living with fracking,” said Earthworks Texas organizer Sharon Wilson. “But it must be a surprise to Texas regulators, who claim to have never found any. Denton was forced to repeal its ban last night. Now Denton and all Texas communities are in the hands of state government, which seems bound and determined to protect the oil and gas industry, not the public. What this study really shows is why communities must have local control to protect their own health and safety.”

While the UT study cautions that the presence of these chemicals cannot be definitively linked to fracking, they are known to be used in the process.

"I hope our data can serve as a springboard for studies that use detailed chemical signatures to pinpoint the impact of various aspects of unconventional drilling processes on groundwater quality," said Schug.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Long-Awaited EPA Study Says Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water

Frack-Happy Texas Forced to Face the Reality of Fracking-Related Earthquakes

Texas Passes Ban on Fracking Bans (Yes, You Read that Right)

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Anderson Community Group. Left to right, Caroline Laur, Anita Foust, the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, and Bill Compton, came together to fight for environmental justice in their community. Anderson Community Group

By Isabella Garcia

On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.

Read More Show Less
Berber woman cooks traditional flatbread using an earthen oven in her mud-walled village home located near the historic village of Ait Benhaddou in Morocco, Africa on Jan. 4, 2016. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. /NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg and Jason Flatt

The world's Indigenous Peoples face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity. While Indigenous Peoples comprise 5 percent of the world's population, they account for 15 percent of the world's poor, according to the World Health Organization.

Read More Show Less
Danny Choo / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Olivia Sullivan

One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.

Read More Show Less
A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less