Quantcast
Energy

Stanford Scientists Find Fracking Linked to Groundwater Contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming

As the fracking industry tries to expand internationally, being promoted as a so-called clean bridge fuel, it is increasingly clear the industry has not one, but two, Achilles heels.

The first is the release of the potent greenhouse gas, methane. The second is water pollution and the threat the controversial technique poses to drinking water.

A new study by scientists from Stanford University in California, published in Environmental Science & Technology has found that fracking operations near Pavillion in Wyoming “have had clear impact to underground sources of drinking water.” Photo credit: Dominic DiGiulio

Both areas are highly disputed, but nearly every week new research reveals new evidence of harm by fracking.

Two weeks ago, new research was published concerning methane. And this week new research concerns water pollution.

A new study by scientists from Stanford University in California, published in Environmental Science & Technology, has found that fracking operations near Pavillion, Wyoming “have had clear impact to underground sources of drinking water.”

The operations near Pavillion have long been contentious. Back in 2008, the town made headlines when local residents started complaining of a foul taste and odor in their drinking water, leading to an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 2011, the EPA issued a preliminary report which linked shallow fracking to toxic compounds in aquifers, but no action was taken by the agency, leading to one of the co-authors of the new study, Rob Jackson, professor at the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at the University to argue that the “EPA has consistently walked away from investigations where people and the environment appear to have been harmed.”

The agency now maintains that since June 2013, “the EPA and the state both agreed that the best path forward in advancing the understanding of groundwater issues in the Pavillion area included EPA’s support for the state’s additional investigation of pits, production wells and drinking water.”

However, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has now advised area residents to avoid bathing, cooking or drinking with water from their taps.

Locations of oil and gas production wells versus domestic water wells in Pavillion, Wyoming. Photo credit: Environmental Science & Technology

The new Stanford study goes beyond the 2011 EPA report to document not only the occurrence of fracking chemicals in underground sources of drinking water but also their impact on that water that is making it unsafe for use.

According to the university: “The research paints a picture of unsafe practices including the dumping of drilling and production fluids containing diesel fuel, high chemical concentrations in unlined pits and a lack of adequate cement barriers to protect groundwater.”

“This is a wake-up call,” said lead author Dominic DiGiulio, a visiting scholar at the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, who used to work for the EPA. “It’s perfectly legal to inject stimulation fluids into underground drinking water resources. This may be causing widespread impacts on drinking water resources.”

He believes that other states which have shallow fracking operations, such as California, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota could also have contaminated water.

DiGiulio argues that “Geologic and groundwater conditions at Pavillion are not unique in the Rocky Mountain region. This suggests there may be widespread impact to underground sources of drinking water as a result of unconventional oil and gas extraction.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Groundbreaking Study Confirms Link Between Fracking and Earthquakes

Induced Earthquakes Increase Chances of Damaging Shaking, Wastewater Disposal From Fracking Primary Cause

7 Arrested at ‘Pancakes Not Pipelines’ Protest at FERC

Bill McKibben: Fracking Has Turned Out to Be a Costly Detour

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
The Revelator

Interactive Map: Air Pollution in 2100

By Dipika Kadaba

Having a little trouble breathing lately? That's no surprise. Air pollution is already bad in many parts of the country, and climate change is only going to make it worse. Even though many industries are reducing their emissions, a warming climate could actually offset these reductions by intensifying the rates of chemical reactions and accumulation of pollutants in the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
ddukang / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Good for You? A Doctor Weighs In

By Gabriel Neal

When my brother and I were kids back in the '80s, we loved going to Long John Silver's.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals

Dumpster Debacle Distracts From Serious Spike in Whale Deaths

This week, a video of a failed attempt to put a dead, 4,000-pound whale into a tiny dumpster made the rounds on the internet, garnering chuckles and comparisons to Peter Griffin forklifting and impaling a beached sperm whale on Family Guy.

The juvenile minke whale washed up on Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire on Monday morning, NBC 10 Boston reported. It was found with entanglement wounds, so researchers with the Seacoast Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted to move the carcass from the beach to a lab for a necropsy to study its death.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Residents stand in a long queue to fill water containers on May 27 in Shimla, India. Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water

International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Mekela Panditharatne, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, submitted the following op-ed to EcoWatch in commemoration.

In drought-ravaged East Africa, the cracks in the plains echo the fault lines splitting tribes.

Across the globe, the devastation of deadly brawls is being exacerbated by tensions over access to water. Water crises, often worsened by governance failures, can portend warning signs for instability and conflict. This year, the World Resources Institute cautioned that water stress is growing globally, "with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040." The effects of such water stress span the gamut from civil unrest to open warfare.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

How Your Personality Type Could Influence Your Food Choices

By Melissa Kravitz

"You are what you eat" may be one of the oldest sayings ever to be repeated around the dinner table, but can you also eat what you are?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!