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EPA to Study Whether Hydraulic Fracturing Taints Drinking Water in North Texas

At the EPA's public hearing in Arlington in August of last year
At the EPA's public hearing in Arlington in August of last year
Photo by Patrick Michels

All at once the in-box filled up with releases from the Environmental Protection Agency, both the national HQ and the regional offices. Long story short: After a series of public hearings held last year, including this one in Arlington, the EPA has decided to go ahead and take a long, hard look at whether fracking has any effect on "drinking water resources," speaking of.

The agency has chosen seven sites, among them the Barnett Shale in North Texas, where, the agency says, there are presently more than 15,000 production wells currently in operation. Specifically, says the EPA, it'll be looking at Wise and Denton Counties to "determine if private water wells are contaminated" and "obtain information about the likelihood of transport of contaminants via spills, leaks, and runoff."

I spoke with Region 6 spokesman Joe Hubbard, who referred all questions about the study to D.C.: "It's an HQ-driven study," he said. So while we wait for further word from agency spokesperson Cathy Milbourn, with whom I'm exchanging some emails, this is what Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development, has to say about the study:

"This is an important part of a process that will use the best science to help us better understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. We've met with community members, state experts and industry and environmental leaders to choose these case studies. This is about using the best possible science to do what the American people expect the EPA to do: ensure that the health of their communities and families is protected."

Says the EPA on its Hydraulic Fracturing homepage, they're expecting some results by the end of next year, with the expectation of making a full report available in 2014.


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